Congratulations! You’ve found your way to this article. That brings joy to my heart because it shows me that you want to live out your God-given calling the right way! If more Christians actually took the time to assess their friendship, perhaps more people could’ve fallen in love with God. But let’s not focus on that – what matters is that you’re here and ready to learn! Alright, here goes.
A Great Friend Listens
Ah, yes. It’s the old “listen before you speak” spiel. Except without the speaking. When you’re there to listen, genuinely engage. Don’t listen half-heartedly while you silently conjure up a clever response. Listening takes a lot of humbleness and humility. It is the act of placing others above ourselves; giving them the safe space they need to tell the truth without judgment. You don’t need to talk in order to change their hearts. People who simply need to confide in you only need the comfort of your silent empathy (unless otherwise stated, of course). Pastor John Mendez wrote a great piece on listening, which you can find here.
A Great Friend Tells the Truth
When it’s a fitting time to reply, let your friends know the truth of God’s heart. Yep—not your own two cents. That’s not telling the truth in love. True truth is God’s truth. If you don’t know what to say, simply refer to the Word and get your response from there. Please keep in mind that this does not mean referencing Bible verses left and right at someone who is struggling or hurting. Sometimes, nothing could be more unfeeling. You can speak the Word of God naturally, without citing the book, chapter, and verse, and I promise you that it would still remain the powerful Word of God.
A Great Friend Protects
Protecting your friend doesn’t always mean physically. One of the most conventional ways to protect your friend is from slander. If your friend is a nonbeliever and your group of Christian friends speak of him or her as though he or she is a lost cause, it is right for you to gently defend. A great friend always hopes. Another common way to protect your friend is to protect him or her from your own thoughts. This is tied to the next point.
A Great Friend Always Assumes the Best
Andy Stanley explains in his book, The New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating, that we are often left with ‘gaps’ in our time apart from others. For example, if your friend promised to show up to church with you but ditches at the last minute, he or she leaves a ‘gap’ for you to fill. You can choose to either fill this gap with good thoughts or malicious thoughts. Either way, these are your thoughts to own. The Godly way, of course, is to assume good thoughts about your friend. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt – always – and you will finally attain peace. “Always?” you ask, “Even if I know deep down that person is just lazy?” Yes, even so. And this is why: It will do your friendship no good if you feed yourself malicious thoughts about the other person. Even if you know he or she cannot righteously justify his or her actions, assume that your friend’s heart is simply not ready. This is often the truth of the matter.
A Great Friend Allows Mistakes
Like I’ve mentioned in my previous article, our friends and family are not extensions of ourselves. They have their own desires and reservations. If God Himself doesn’t want to infringe on our boundaries by giving us free will, we should model after Him and do the same for others. After you’ve told your friends the truth in love, let them exercise their free will. If you interfere with the process by taking on the consequences for them, they shall never learn. Allowing for mistakes is the only way to love others. Don’t worry, God will surely supply you with enough patience (and reminders) to give room for error.
A Great Friend Forgives
How many bitter people out there win people to God with their bitterness? Zip. Nada. None. And that’s exactly why we don’t want to be that kind of friend. When my group of middle schoolers were asked, “What makes a great friend?” their responses varied from “Someone who is supportive,” to “A person who listens.” Not one of them would ever in their right minds say, “Someone who doesn’t forgive.” Yet, most of us fit into that category. Our traumatic memories keep us entangled in the past sins of others. However, we are called to be kind, compassionate, and forgive as God had forgiven us. No matter the offense, you must forgive because that is the only way to change people’s hearts. After all, it was His kindness that led us to repentance.
A Great Friend is Gentle
One of the greatest attributes of the wise is gentleness. Gentleness includes being thoughtful with your speech and being sensitive with your actions. A great friend doesn’t use force to make something happen. Gentleness is not weakness; never forget that. My sister once taught me that gentleness is power under control. To be gentle is to know how to control yourself for the benefit of others.
A Great Friend Does Not Envy
Finally, this is the point that blows us all out of the water. Great friends are not envious of others. A great friend seeks to give, not to take. Envy takes the life out of every celebration. That means that you should look for opportunities to celebrate your friends’ victories. Be competitive at it! The same way you’d want your loved ones to celebrate your victory, be even more eager to celebrate theirs! That’s what separates an insecure friend from a Godly friend. A Godly friend is already 110% secure in Christ, so he or she is brimming with joy at the success of others.
Here is an important note to remember as you attempt to be a great friend to others: It is okay to mess up sometimes. The most important thing is to keep referring back to the truth and try again. Loving others the Godly way takes practice. If you haven’t made the connection yet, I’ve taken these principles straight out of 1 Corinthians 13. To be a great friend, you’ve got to learn to love like God loves. By investing time, energy, and self-restraint in loving others the specific way in which Christ loves you, you will win souls for the kingdom of God.