Now of course I have friends, but when I thought back it wasn’t the joyous occasions that came to mind but the times when I had been hurt and all the bad friendship choices I had made. Needless to say it wasn’t much of a confidence booster and I began to seriously doubt that I should write about this… until God whispered in my ear – ‘This isn’t about you – it’s about ME.’
I want to start this evening by looking at friendship and at what makes a good friend. The word ‘friend’ is defined as ‘a person attached to another by affection or regard.’ But another definition I found really shows what true friendship is about. It states that ‘a friend is someone who walks in when the rest of the world walks out’.
So what does it mean to be a friend? Earlier in the year I got several texts telling me it was National Friendship Day. I’m so popular!! The texts ranged from ‘Friends are like balloons’
‘Friends are like balloons. Once you let them go, you can’t get them back. So I’m going to tie you to my wrist so I’ll never lose you’
Friends are like knickers....Some crawl up your bum......
Some snap under pressure... Some don't have the strength to hold you up...
Some get a little twisted... Some are your favourite...
Some are holey...Some are cheap and just plain nasty...
And some actually do cover your bum when you need them to!
But friendship is a lot more than receiving funny texts and having a gossip over a cup of coffee every so often.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read and that I probably possess a book dealing with whatever problem you’re having or something I have just finished that you simply MUST read!! And of course at the moment we are going through ‘Life Management for Busy Women’ by Elizabeth George. So between her wonderful ideas and the many Scriptural examples, I have a top 5 list on ‘how to be a better friend’.
1. BE LOYAL
The first one on the list is to be loyal. Most people will assume that a friend is someone who will be loyal and stay with you no matter what, but in this day and age that is rarely the case. There is so much gossipping that goes on, from the gossip around a cup of coffee during work, to the Christian gossip ‘wait until you hear what happened to such and such – we need to pray for her’. But a true friend doesn’t ever gossip.
A true friend shows allegiance and devotion. Proverbs 17:17 says ‘A friend loves at all times’ and in Proverbs 27:10 we read ‘Do not forsake your friend’. A true friend in silent. I know – sounds funny – but a true friend will hold each of your confidences to the grave (as long as not an axe-murderer in your spare time!). Proverbs 17:9 says ‘Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.’ This is one of the major attributes of a friend and when broken it can be disastrous. So to be a good friend we need to be loyal – stay true, stay faithful and stay quiet!
2. DO NOT KEEP SCORE
This is another pretty obvious one, but one that I have to admit I have had trouble with! Elizabeth George writes the following in her book.
‘True friends don’t pay attention to whether or not you return their phone calls immediately, or ever at all. True friends aren’t shaken when time passes and there is no contact. There are no wrong or impure or selfish motives in true friendship. There is no accounting, no game-playing, no tit-for-tat, and no keeping score. Instead a true friend understands and supports your commitments, responsibilities and priorities. They even help you out with them. They delight in praying for you, encouraging you and assisting you as you live for God and others.’
1 Corinthians 13 is the chapter on ‘love’ that is used in lots of wedding services, but it also applies to every other relationship in our lives, and so applies to friendship too. Verse 5 says ‘It keeps no record of wrongs’. Can’t get much clearer than that!
3. BE RESPECTFUL AND SENSITIVE
One the main ways to do this isn’t something you’d associate with being a good friend. Be scarce!! Proverbs 25:17 says ‘Don’t visit your neighbours too often, or you will wear out your welcome’! That doesn’t mean you don’t spend time together, but today we have so many different ways of staying in touch, from texts, twitter, facebook, email to hand-written letter sent in the post!
Each of the women reading this have a million and one things going on their life at this precise moment. Being a true friend is to see that, understand that if you are busy then she is probably just as busy, if not even busier (esp. depending on the number of kids she has!!) and to be sensitive to how she precious her time is. I have a friend and when we ring each other instead of saying ‘hello’ we both will ask ‘is this a good time or a bad time?’ And it works! We are both able to be totally honest as to if we have the time for a chat and we can be sensitive to each other and how precious our time is. And neither of us are offended if it isn’t and we don’t get to ring back for a couple of days!
Another good tip is to always phone someone before you drop round – whether they’ve told you to just come on ahead or not. It gives that little bit of warning which can make all the difference!
4. BE AN ENCOURAGER
One of the most well known examples of friendships in the Bible is the story of David and Jonathan. What always struck me wasn’t the fact that Jonathan stayed as a true friend to David, despite opposition from his father, but that they had an extra depth to their relationship. 1 Samuel 23:16 says ‘Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.’ We’ll talk about this a little in the last point, but for now, Jonathan was an encourager just when David needed it most.
There are lots of little ways that we can encourage each other. A couple of examples –
· Make her a meal when someone in the house is sick
· Offer to babysit when she looks like she needs a night out!
· Praise her for something amazing she has done – but make it a true compliment and not just flattery
· Send her a hand-written note with either a verse of words of encouragement in it. A couple of years ago I was on a ladies retreat with the Agape ladies and one of the things we did was write notes of encouragement, praise and identity and slip them into a bag that carried each of the ladies names. At the end of the weekend we each went home with a little bag of blessings to read and re-read whenever we needed a little encouragement. This exact idea may not be practical but you can see the impact a note can make!
· Pray for her – and even better – let her know you are doing it. It can be such an encouragement to know that someone is praying for you as you go through life.
Elizabeth George’s husband Jim, added a little motto of his to her book.
‘In every encounter make it your goal that the other person is better off for having spent time with you.’
Make sure you are respectful and sensitive to how precious time is especially for us women!
5. SEEK TO SHARE GOD ALWAYS
Each of the first four points show us how to be a good friend. But how do we do friendship ‘dipped in love’? What makes a friendship even more special and have even more depth than you ever thought? The answer is simple. God.
Each of us have various relationships and different people that we interact with each day. I just want to look at two in particular before we close. The first is the relationship we have with friends who know God as their personal Saviour and Lord of their lives. When you have two women who both love God and put Him first, it brings such a depth to their friendship. It is amazing how special it is when you can open the Bible with a friend, or pray with a friend, or even just talk about the things of God openly with a friend. It changes the way you have a cup of coffee, makes you more aware of their needs and how you can help them, and makes you the one person in the world who can challenge them when their behaviour or attitude requires it. We’ve all had friends who have acted in ways that we thought were wrong on occasions, but the friendship that is grounded in God’s love, enables both of the women to come in love and help each other deal with whatever is becoming an obstacle in their lives. It’s definitely not easy, but it is such a privilege to help someone in this way. And it can even move you to tears!
I am very lucky in my job to be able to study, read and pray with a wide range of women from different areas and backgrounds. But the most special things of all is when I have been able to study and pray with my sisters, my sisters-in-law and my best friends. One of my friends – probably my BFF – has known me for years and throughout everything still is my friend – no matter what. The exciting thing is that in the last couple of months we have had the opportunity to really read the Bible together and I am so moved constantly at the difference and the extra level it has brought to our friendship. If you don’t already do it – try it out!!!
The second relationship I want to mention is the friendship you have with those who don’t yet know about the true extent of God’s love. This is so important and so many of us miss it completely. If we have friends who don’t know God intimately yet – we need to focus on sharing God with them in every area of our lives. We need to include them in things we do, share our lives verbally so that they have the opportunity to question why we do certain things, and most of all we need to sit them down and tell them the hope that we have in our hearts. After all – you are more than likely to share the news of a massive sale in Victoria Square within two seconds of you hearing it… how much more important is it to introduce them to your Saviour?
I am totally talking to myself here as well. I have a story of regret in this area that I wanted to share with you. For 2 years I was friends with a girl that I did everything with. She lived around the corner from me, so would call round for a cuppa and to watch TV; we went to the gym together; we played football together. But at the end of the two years I realised, as she started to drift off to another group of friends, that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to share Christ with her in a direct way. I mean we talked about my work and Alan’s work, we talked about differences in the Protestant and Catholics churches and things like that, but I had never taken the opportunity to sit down and share my faith – why I believe what I do and what God did for me and her. I could cry when I think that because of my lack of courage and lack of urgency I am no longer in a position of trust and friendship to be able to do that. Please – if this is where you are – do it before it’s too late.
So no matter what you do, remember that we are aiming to bring glory to Him and to show His love to those around us, so please, especially in your friendships...
keep on shining... :)