It is a natural desire to want good friends. But, as 1 Corinthians 15:33 tells us, people rub off on people, so you want to be careful who you surround yourself with because you will inevitably become like them.
While this instinctively sends us on an external search for true friends, one of the primary ways to attract good company is to be good company. The whole “your vibe attracts your tribe” thing. If you want good friends, you have to be a good friend.
Relationships are two-sided. There shouldn’t be one true friend pouring into another who only receives. They should both be working, loving, growing, and bouncing off each other in a mutually beneficial way as they pursue Christ-likeness (Proverbs 27:17).
So, with that in mind, how can you be a good friend?
#1 — Choose carefully
Friendship by definition requires direction, two or more people walking together for the same purpose. There must be something you have in common for a bond to exist, something the two of you enjoy doing, discussing, or working on together.
To say “we’re friends” could imply a variety of things like usefulness, pleasurable company, regard for or attraction to others’ goodness, or desire for the good of a friend for the friend’s sake (i.e. agape or love).
The choice comes in who you are going to commit to for a deep, cultivating, long-term friendship. You cannot do this with everyone. Humans are far too complex to get to know more than a handful of people on a soul level (1 Samuel 18:1-3). By a handful, I literally mean five or less. If you can count your closest friends on one hand, you are blessed.
But be careful who you let into that inner circle. They will be the ones with whom you have a reciprocal relationship and go to for advice, so make sure they are someone you would actually take advice from. They won’t know everything but they will have the clarity and confidence to tell you what you need to hear, even when you don’t want to hear it.
“Funny how your quality of life improves dramatically when you surround yourself with good, intelligent, kind-hearted, positive, loving people.”-Unknown
By choosing a handful of good people to commit to, you establish the reciprocity that serves as the foundation for the best of friendships. No one you choose will be perfect and never let you down, but you will hold similar beliefs and an equal stubbornness to not give up on the other.
#2 — Be faithful
As my best friend and I headed into our first semester of college, we found ourselves coincidentally going to the same school and church. For the first time since we met, there was hardly going to be a day in the week when we would not see each other.
While overjoyed with our aligned schedules, I joked that we were going to get sick of each other— a now ironic truth. That first semester, our constant connection led me to experience the drama she found herself in so exhaustively that I questioned if I really wanted to stick by her side.
Thankfully, when I hit the wall myself, the five-minute hug she gave me in a crowded student center reminded me that the sweetest parts of a friendship are highlights because of the darkness contrasting them.
“But we followers of Jesus do value faithfulness, and we do value staying in a relationship even when ‘it’s complicated.’”-John Dyer
The love that binds a true friendship is commitment and loyalty. It’s choosing to stay even when it’s hard or uncomfortable. Friendship is an intentional thing, carefully chosen and continuously up-kept. To be a good friend, you must invest even when it’s inconvenient.
True friendship is a plant of slow growth. It must be cultivated by continuing to choose the friendship: water, weed, and grow. Through the good times and bad, good friends stay even when there is little to give and little to receive.
#3 — Build on honesty
To be a good friend, you must be honest. Not much hurts more than knowing you weren’t worth the truth. While there is discretion needed for certain matters within cross-gender friendships, you should never lie. Just assure them that transparency on that particular matter would be unwise.
Otherwise, and especially with guy-to-guy and girl-to-girl friendships, there should be unquestionable trust. You should say what you mean and mean what you say. Be open and honest about who you are and the life you’re living.
Allow your inner circle to evaluate you. If you really trust them and value their feedback, show them by opening yourself up for critique. Tell them “if you see something, say something.” From bad outfits to character flaws, let them know you value their unfiltered thoughts.
Then be equally as brutally honest with them. If you truly love your friend, you will care about them too much not to say something about an issue you see (Proverbs 3:11-12). If you’re afraid to say what needs to be said, are you really a friend?
“Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible—terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.”-Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places
#4 — Connect emotionally
I have always been one to have an “I can figure it out myself” attitude. I will research before I ask and try before I seek help. When hard times come, I turn in, hunker down, and focus on the horizon, determined not to take anyone else down with me.
During an evening of transparency my last summer in college, my best friend’s wide-eye realization of just how similar we are caused me to realize that my habits had prevented us from connecting on a deeper level.
She knew about my struggles and how God used them to grow me because I told her about them after the fact. I never let her in to see the darkest, rawest parts of myself, so she understood we are very much the same person, but she didn’t know.
“The most intimate thing we can do is to allow people we love most see us at our worst. At our lowest. At our weakest. True intimacy happens when nothing is perfect.”-Amy Harmon
Don’t be afraid to lean on your closest friends. They want to be there for you, but they can’t if you don’t let them. While fake friends act like they always have it together, good friends are transparent, vulnerable, and real.
Love is giving someone the power to destroy you but trusting them not to. In that hard but beautiful dance, you can push through the struggles together and find yourselves able to relate in ways you didn’t know you had in common.
#5 — Sharpen one another
You will never become who you could become without the sharpened edge of a friend. Friends must mutually challenge one another. They must bump, push, and shove to round off the others’ rough edges (Proverbs 27:17). Mutual, yes, but don’t fall short on your part.
In her book Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin says, “I debate the hardest with the people I respect the most, because I take their ideas seriously . . . Attempting to persuade others to change their beliefs is a sign of respect. You are treating them as thinking agents with the ability to decide what they believe.”
A good friend will not agree with everything their friend says but challenge them to consider another perspective, therefore helping them gain a well-rounded stance. An intellect becomes sharper by bouncing off another. Do this for your friends.
To be a good friend, be humble and a good listener. Be someone who can be corrected and receive critique well. Do not dominate your friendship, it’s not about you. Ask for forgiveness and, finally, serve your friends with no expectation of return.