There’s a proverb that says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and throughout our lives, we have encountered friendships we continue to cherish, but there may also have been friends who either betrayed or disappointed us in one way or another.Having real friends who are there for you through thick and thin is a rare blessing for which to be eternally grateful. Those friends who stick closer than a brother aren’t made every day, and one of the gifts we can give someone else is to be that kind of friend.
What does it mean to be a good friend though? The proverb quoted above reflects something true of life, that some “friends” are unreliable and bring you to ruin. Another helpful reminder that seems to come straight out of the parents’ guide to raising kids is, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character”” as Paul wrote in a letter to Christians in the city of Corinth.
The people that you hang around tend to shape and influence your view of the world and how to be in it. If that’s true, then it’s important to have people around you who will draw out the best in you. Not only that, but it’s also important for you to be the sort of person who draws out the best in others and doesn’t lead them to ruin.
Friendship in the 21st Century isn’t something we spend a lot of time thinking about, but it’s such a vital part of our lives that we’d be remiss not to talk about it. One study undertaken showed that between 1985 and 2004 in the US, there was a huge drop-off of almost 33% in relationships with confidants, and men’s average number of friends dropped by over 40%.
Being able to make friends is increasingly difficult in our highly mobile world. Friendships formed in high school or college may last into later stages of life, but with people moving for school and work opportunities, it’s harder and harder to remain connected. Making new friends when you’re older isn’t always easy, either, because you must put yourself out there to connect with other guys.
This social isolation is real, especially when the drop-off in friendships happens in those earlier phases of a long-term relationship or marriage. At a time when they are going through important life transitions, most men don’t have the friendships they need to buoy them, and that can have an impact on their mental and emotional health.
Being a good friend
Being a good friend to other people has that element of not only being present in their life, but the kind of presence you are in their life; whether your influence draws them toward their best selves or brings out the worst in them. Being a good friend involves a variety of things, including:
Deepening your common interests
Many men’s friendships are based on shared activities, experiences, and interests, and not so much on disclosure as many female friendships tend to be. To have those shared experiences, you must actively plan for activities and be available for them. This becomes difficult as one becomes immersed in their career or family, or if you and your friends live in different cities.However, by reaching out to your friends and creating opportunities to reconnect, you allow for depth in the relationship. However, this is where most men struggle because they settle into a low-key social calendar or rely increasingly on their spouse to initiate social activities with other people.
You should take the initiative to reach out to your own friends. In movies, bromances look effortless, but in real life maintaining your common interests with your friends takes hard and consistent work.
Spurring your friends on to be their best selves
Being a good friend means being involved in their lives, and you’ll see the good, bad, and the ugly. The banter between guys tends to be lighthearted and doesn’t typically go into “deep stuff.”
This may be in part due to how guys lean toward doing life shoulder-to-shoulder with other men, and not face-to-face. Being a good friend may mean wading in a little deeper and talking about the deep stuff, encouraging them to be their best selves and to use their gifts. When life beats you down, having someone in your corner who’s an encourager goes a long way.
Holding your boys accountable
No one is perfect, and when you are friends with other people, they usually know all your faults. This is especially the case when you’ve been friends for a while and share a lot of history. Good friendships are those where people are open with one another. That openness shouldn’t preclude accountability though. Accountability can be anything from sticking to the number of beers you said you’d have on your outing or heading back home on time as promised.
It may also be about helping one another stay faithful to your spouses when you’re out or helping a friend steer away from areas of weakness such as alcohol, gambling, and so on. Yes, it may sound boring, but helping your friends be people of integrity, and being held accountable by them, helps keep you from making shipwrecks of your lives and relationships.
Being the guy who tells it like it isHaving people in your life that tell it like it is in love, goes a long way. We need people in our lives that are dependable; whose opinion is valuable because it is honest. This can go a long way toward helping us see ourselves clearly, and receiving honest feedback that challenges, and hopefully betters us.
Another proverb says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6). While the truth may hurt, it is better than telling lies, and being willing to take a chance by risking the relationship through truth-telling is the mark of a good friend.
A good friendship is a valuable thing. C.S. Lewis once wrote that when friends get together, they each bring something different and new out of one another. He wrote “In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out.
By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets…Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend.”
That is why the loss of a friend is devastating – there’s something that only that person was able to bring out of the others in your group. But that is also why the addition of another friend to your circle is welcome because only they can bring out something new and as-yet-unseen from the group of friends.
For men, being a good friend will at times mean crossing the divide of what is typically seen as masculine behavior. What many men have been taught it means to “be a man” tends to leave them isolated and friendless because they don’t develop the social and emotional skills to be available to others.
Prioritizing work and family is great, but it often leaves little room for vital friendships and friendship-building. Having friends is important for a healthy life, and it has an impact on your physical and mental health. Being a good friend is a blessing you can gift to others, and that will enrich your own life as well.
“Forest”, Courtesy of Boudhayan Bardhan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forest”, Courtesy of Johannes Plenio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Trees”, Courtesy of Natalie Thornley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forest Road”, Courtesy of Lars Nissen Photoart, Pixabay.com, CC0 License