I have many friends from all over the world: Effingham IL, to Elizabethtown KY, to Terre Haute IN, and from Ireland to Japan.
One of my closest friends, who is our pastor, told us he was leaving to go to his next parish. Upon hearing this I thought, “I am losing one of my dearest friends!”I was excited for him, knowing others would feel the same way I do. I knew they would have this wonderful priest that they can learn from. After that weekend, I was pondering my friendships and how much they have changed throughout the years.
Why is it we are pulled towards some people more than others? What makes us want to continue this friendship? Why is it harder to build lasting friendships as an adult is than it is when we are young?
Friendship is like wine. ;) If you know me I love my sweet wine and I love my sweet friends. Friendship is a special kind of love, more than true and more than endless. Connecting with people who genuinely care about one another is a gift from God that we sometimes take for granted.
Friends are those people we feel good with. Friends make us laugh, hear us out and really listen to our hearts, support us when the going is tough, and hang with us when we just need some fun time. True friendship is about unconditional love. That unconditional love is Jesus’ will for our lives. Jesus wants us to have this love in all we come in contact with.
A true faithful friend holds up a mirror in which we see ourselves. One of my best friendships started in college and we have been friends for 25 years. She was from another country and I liked learning about cultural things, and we both were “Catholic”, these 2 things brought mutual bonding into our friendship. Over time, circumstances changed. We started drifting not because we both didn’t value our friendship when life began taking us in different directions. I left and went home to Effingham after college. She got married and started having kids. Even when I moved back to our college town, I was single and she was raising two small kids.
About 10 years ago things changed again. We started having lunch at least once a month. I started hanging out with her family. Our friendship grew stronger and stronger – we wanted to make this friendship work. We had deep and significant conversations, beyond ordinary superficial things. It’s not simply about spending time together but about the desire to strengthen the bond between us.
25 years ago I wouldn’t have called her my sister in Christ. She has grown so much in her faith since then, and so have I. As we grow closer to Christ, we grow closer together. She is not only my best friend, she is truly my sister in the Lord.
Friends are the ones who show us how tough we are when all we see is how weak we are; they point out our good traits, like courage and wisdom, when we are down on ourselves. They remind us of capabilities and motivate us for our future. They strengthen our lives and we are richer for having spent time with them. We come away with a sturdier sense of self because we have strengthened each other.
But friends don't just uncover our good qualities; they tell it like it is. They are the people in our lives who aren't afraid to tell us what they really think, who hold us accountable. They speak the truth in love, and in the process, make us better: "As iron is sharpened by iron, one person sharpens another" (Prv. 27:17).
Be aware of the mirror you hold up for your friends. Do you throw back to them the goodness you find in their hearts and in their character? Are you able to lovingly reveal the areas in their lives that they need to work on? With any relationship it’s two-sided, not one. We have to make sure we truly listen and make each other feel heard.
It’s easy today to be sarcastic and mean in our comments with one another and pass it off as if we‘re only joking. But when we come away from spending time with friends feeling hurt by their words, we need to reevaluate our friendships. A true, faithful friend can joke and laugh with you, but the tone changes when they laugh at you. When that happens, the mirror they hold up to you is negative and it tears down your spirit. You come away with a lesser sense of self.
People who leave you with this reflection are not true faithful friends.
Be mindful of the reflection you hold up to those close to you. How do they feel after an interaction with you? Be willing to reflect back their strength of character. Be kind when honesty requires a hard look at something in another’s life. Build people up in a way that challenges them to continue moving in a positive direction in their lives.
Remember that words make a difference. Be aware of the tone and body language you are sharing with those you care about. It communicates loud and clear!
Always surround yourself with friends who are truly friends, and not ones who tear you down. I had to distance myself from some friends because they would tear me down or others around me. God has reasons for placing us in each other’s lives. He brings us together so we can help each other get to heaven.
Over the course of time, people will seldom remember what you said to them. But they will always remember how you made them feel.
Evaluate your friendships. Nurture those who build into your life. Seek out ways to support those you care about. Here some ways you can be a better friend:
Listen well and offer advice only if asked.
Respect different points of view. Remember every coin has two sides and relationships goes both ways, just as every issue does.
Never betray trust. Hold confidences with care.
Never manipulate by being intentionally controlling, needy, or weak.
Deal with conflict. Left to simmer, it will boil over and do damage.
Cultivate warmth and care.
Remember friendships are a gift from God, and Jesus showed us the true meaning of friendship: Jn 15:12 states, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” Our friendships with others is an opportunity to discover Christ. They are to be valued and nurtured so that deep connections can be sustained. Be like Jesus! He had 12 friends that were everything to him. Because Jesus is the ultimate true friend you have.