Friendship is something of a lost art. Being able to make and keep friends over a long period is something we struggle with, even though we live in a hyper-connected world. C.S. Lewis once wrote in The Four Loves, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”Friends, in the deepest sense of the word, enrich an otherwise dull existence. Having the skill to make and cultivate meaningful friendships is valuable as it moves us beyond mere survival.
Having good friends also has a huge impact on your character. The words, “Do not be misled; bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33) come to mind. If your friends have bad character qualities, it can affect your own behavior in negative ways. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider the types of people we invite as friends, and who we are as friends to others.
Being a good friend can probably be summed up as being a faithful presence in the lives of your friends built on common interests. In our busy lives, doing a simple thing like texting or calling your friends can get lost in the shuffle. Between those simple things and going through the tough times together, nurturing friendships seems like a monumental task.
Friendship: Relationship Advice for Men
What are some of the ways you can enrich your friendships and grow as a good friend?
Keep up your interests
Becoming friends with someone is often something that occurs spontaneously as you bond over a love of sports, books, or being out in nature. Whatever it was that drew you together as friends, you discovered that you had a mutual love for something, and you haven’t looked back since. Friendship is about doing life alongside one another. Having something in common bonds friends together; they enjoy a common interest and draw nearer to each other through it.Your interests may change over time, but one key thing about developing your friendships is to keep enjoying your friends. That means making time for them, something that can be challenging in a busy world chock-full of commitments.
Taking the time out to bond with your friends over common interests helps to keep refreshing that relationship and rediscovering that feeling of finding a fellow traveler. It’s easy to take our friends for granted, so make it a point to create space in your life and calendar to be with them.
Support your circle
The people in your circle will go through the typical ups and downs of life. In all of this, being a good friend means being there for them and supporting them through it. There are various ways for this to happen, depending on the circumstances. A few examples emerge from Scripture that we can explore to see what friendships and meaningful support looks like.
Paul and Timothy were drawn together in the common cause of sharing the good news about Jesus with others. Paul was the older man, and Timothy was a young man that Paul began to mentor. Paul took Timothy under his wing, showing him the ropes and living with transparency. When Timothy started leading a group of churches, Paul continued to support him. He encouraged him to pursue his calling and let no one despise him because he was young.
He wrote two letters to encourage Timothy (what we now call 1 and 2 Timothy in the Bible), and endorse him and his ministry publicly, and in that way supported the work Timothy was doing. Paul staked his reputation on the work Timothy was doing. No greater endorsement can come from a friend.
Finding good role models is valuable for life. That role is usually occupied by fathers, but in this imperfect world, that’s not always an option. Stepping in the gap as a mentor and friend to other guys, supporting them in their times of need, can go a long way toward setting them up for success.
Supporting your friends when they are under pressure or in distress is another role friends can play for one another. We see this exemplified with Jesus and his followers. Jesus called them his friends. They knew his heart and he shared his plans with them. Jesus was there for his friends, and he was willing to die for them, which he did.Before that horrible ordeal though, Jesus struggled with what was going to happen, so much so that when he was praying, he was distressed to the point that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” He needed his friends to stay up with him to pray for strength, but they couldn’t (Luke 22:39-46).
We can’t always be there for the ones we love; circumstances are often beyond our control, and we can’t take that friend for their physiotherapy session or show up for an important performance. But being a good friend means when you can show up, you probably should. Underlying all this is prioritizing the friendship and supporting your friend, especially in those moments when they need support.
Have you ever been under pressure to do the wrong thing and betray your friend? In work and social situations, a variety of pressures can bring us to a point of decision, whether we will do the right thing and stand by our friend or stand aside. Standing up for your friends and what is right despite pressure is another lesson we learn from the Bible specifically from David and Jonathan.
Jonathan was the son of King Saul, and ordinarily one day he would become the king. But David was the man God had chosen to lead his people after Saul, and everyone knew it. King Saul wanted to eliminate David, even though David respected the throne and God’s initial choice of Saul.
At least twice, when he had the advantage over Saul, David didn’t use it because it wasn’t right. When Saul was trying to kill David, Jonathan helped his friend to escape and stood up to his father because he recognized that David was God’s choice (1 Samuel 19-20).
While most of us aren’t involved in high-stakes games of intrigue with the fate of a nation in the balance, the lesson here is still valuable. You may feel pressure from your boss or another influential person to do something wrong that will negatively impact your friend.
Supporting your circle of friends may mean standing up and doing the right thing despite negative consequences. Standing up to other people, including your friends, and speaking the truth to them to help them be accountable may be costly, but that’s what good friends do.
Let your circle grow
A circle of friends usually has a mix of personalities in it. One guy may be the joker, while another guy is the cynic, and yet another is a hopeless romantic. Each of these guys brings something to the party. Talking about friendship, C.S. Lewis said that the beauty of friendships is that each friend brings out something in the others that only they can. If you lose one of your number, you lose that reaction or those jokes and stories that only that person was able to tell.
There are at least two ways to let your circle grow. First, let your friends be who God made them to be. They have their personalities for a reason, and we bring out different things in each other.
Second, as enriching as your circle may be, it can become tempting to become a little clique that excludes others. When a crew of friends becomes exclusive and doesn’t embrace others and doesn’t create room for others to share in it, it can become problematic, especially if you begin to lose your moral compass as a group. Being open to others as a group and to individual growth are great ways for your friendships to remain healthy.
At times, making or keeping friends can be a challenge. If you find that you struggle in this area, one option is to invest some time in therapy to help you develop better self-awareness and relational skills to deepen your friendships. Friendship is a blessing that enriches our lives. Like Lewis said, cultivating those friendships adds value to our everyday lives, and it brings beauty to what would otherwise be a dull existence.
“Three Friends”, Courtesy of Helena Lopes, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Hanging Out”, Courtesy of Roman Odintsov, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Beach Buddies”, Courtesy of Oliver Sjöström, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Students”, Courtesy of Armin Rimoldi, Pexels.com, CC0 License