Over the years I’ve had many friends. Some are a distant memory; some are fixtures from my childhood; some, though they have been in my life for relatively few years, I can say with confidence they will remain.
Fortunately, true friends can usually be identified pretty quickly; unfortunately, not-so-true friends can be slow to show their true colors. But here’s how to know who’s who.
True Friends Love No Matter What
Even if you don’t agree on every little thing or you have a minor falling out, a friend will still love you.
A friend loves at all times. – Proverbs 17:17
And love isn’t something you say; it’s something you do. The Lord must always be our example.
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
Does your friend love you even when you’re cranky, you forget to return her text or you don’t share her interests, or does she become petulant and critical? If the latter describes her, run now. Run fast. And heed the angel’s warning to Lot: Do not look back.
Real Friendships Are Reciprocal
I can say that because I’ve learned about friendship the hard way. I’m a magnet for soul leaches – people who drain you to the point they’ll suck your soul dry. Such relationships are imbalanced and unhealthy, and they never – or at least should never – last.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
A real friend will be willing to give her all – to whatever extent her circumstances permit – when you most need it. And when her world crumbles around her, she knows without a doubt you’ll be there.
True Friends Speak Hard Truth into Your Life
Friendship, like marriage, is an investment. By entering into a friendship, you’re agreeing to invest into the life of that person. Sometimes this comes in the form of encouragement and support. But not always.
Because sometimes we say and do stupid things. Sometimes we knowingly or unknowingly fall into habitual sin. And those are the times that truly test friendships, because a true friend will prayerfully, respectfully and lovingly speak truth into your life.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. – Galatians 6:1
I have friends whom I can trust to hold me accountable in a gracious way, knowing they too are sinners wholly reliant on God’s grace. And I’ve had friends who become ugly and accusatory. Note the past tense.
Friends sharpen you. They inspire you. They challenge you. Avoid people who just affirm you. If you need affirmation, turn on Oprah.
Real Friends Keep Their Promises
Friends prove their trustworthiness. Years ago, I made a promise that I never kept and now am unable to fulfill. Through my failure, I learned an important lesson, one I strive never to relearn.
In contrast, consider David’s commitment to his best friend, Jonathan, in 1 Samuel 20. Knowing his friend would soon ascend the throne and displace his own father, Jonathan asked David to show kindness to his household for the rest of his life. Years later, David fulfilled that promise by treating Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth like family.
Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” – 2 Samuel 9:17
Friends love. Friends give. Friends speak truth. Friends keep their word.
Do you want true friends? Try being one. But first start with your friendship with God, who is the author of love, of giving, of truth and of promises. He will prove to the most faithful friend of all.