Friendship can be a Double-Edged Sword: 5 Traits to Look for in a True Friend
By Julie Pratt
I hate to say it but women can be snarky. Very snarky. And our Christianity doesn't exempt us from this tendency. When it hits, it hurts, and it makes this hard-as-nails city girl feel a little like crying.
Friendship can be a double-edged sword.
In my nearly 20 years of ministry, I have learned that I need friends. But, one of my biggest struggles with life is actually allowing someone close enough to be my friend because it hasn't always fared well. I'll never know why it is particularly difficult for us women to find genuine friendships. But it is.
Ever heard this phrase?
Friends come, friends go, but a true friend is there to watch you grow.
Whether a woman in full-time ministry, in a leadership role at your church, a woman who just loves Jesus, or someone who doesn't attend church at all, we are women with a deep need for healthy friendships with other women. We often long for what Anne of Green Gables calls a "kindred spirit." That person that "gets us," laughs with us, cries with us, shops with us, and is not afraid to "call us out" when we are in the wrong.
So what exactly is a "true friend"? I've narrowed the list down to five things:
1. Friends Love Sacrificially
John 15:13 (NIV) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
Jesus is the supreme example of a true Christian friend, isn't He? The love He exemplified for us is sacrificial, never selfish. He demonstrated it through the humble service of washing the disciples' feet, and especially when He laid down His life on the Cross.
If we choose our friends based only on what they have to offer, we won't discover the blessings of a genuine friendship. By valuing your friend's needs above your own, you'll be on your way to loving like Jesus.
2. Friends Accept Unconditionally
Proverbs 17:17 (NIV) A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
We discover the best of friendships with those to whom we've been honest and sincere and who know and accept our weaknesses and imperfections.
If we are easily offended or hold on to bitterness, we'll have a hard time making friends. No one is perfect (am I ever an imperfect creation!). We all make mistakes from time to time. If we take a truthful look at ourselves, we'll admit that we bear some of the blame when things go wrong in a friendship. A good friend is quick to ask forgiveness and ready to be forgiving.
3. Friends Trust Completely
Proverbs 18:24 (NASB) A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
You've read this proverb a gazillion times, I'm sure. But have you looked at it from this angle: this proverb reveals the interesting truth that a true Christian friend is trustworthy, for sure, but it also emphasizes that we should only expect to share complete trust with a few loyal friends. Trusting too easily can lead to ruin, so be careful about putting your confidence in a mere acquaintance. Over time our true Christian friends will prove their trustworthiness by sticking closer than a brother (or sister).
4. Friends Keep Healthy Boundaries
1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy ...
If you feel smothered in a friendship, something is wrong. If you feel used, something is also wrong. Recognizing what's best for someone and giving that person space are signs of a healthy relationship. We should never let a friend come between us and our spouse. A true Christian friend will wisely avoid intruding and recognize your need to maintain other relationships.
5. Friends Give Mutual Edification
Proverbs 27:6 (NIV) Wounds from a friend can be trusted ...
True Christian friends will build each other up emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Friends like to be together simply because it feels good. We receive strength, encouragement, and love. We talk, we cry, we listen. But at times we also have to say the difficult things our friend needs to hear. Yet, because of our shared trust and acceptance, we are the one person who can impact our friend's heart, for we know how to deliver the hard message with truth and grace. I believe this is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
May I challenge you to take a good look at your behavior? Can you honestly say, "I'm a true friend?" If you fall into the snarky category, it's not too late to change and become a true friend. Hopefully you haven't burned too many bridges.
If you have been on the receiving end of snarkiness, be encouraged, you're not alone. If you do not have lots of close friends, perhaps it is due to the impenetrable walls you've built around you due to past hurts. May I challenge you to keep your heart open and give someone a chance at friendship. Remember, true friendships are rare treasures. They take time to nurture, but once you grow them, they can last a lifetime and withstand distance and circumstances.
JulieAnn Pratt is the Family Life Pastor at Radiant Life Church AG, Dublin, OH. Additionally, she ministers to pastors' wives and women in ministry through mentoring. JulieAnn, her husband Shelby, and their 3 children reside in Columbus, OH. You can follow JulieAnn at her personal blog Ministry Momma (www.ministrymomma.com).