A few months ago, my teenage daughter volunteered to speak at a retreat for other teen girls. The topic was “friendship,” and as I sat in the back listening, one phrase really resonated with me.
Be the friend you wish you had.
That’s such great advice for girls, I thought. I have four girls myself, and I know they’re often tempted with jealousy, comparison, and pettiness in their friendships. And then for one second, I took a good look at myself, and began to ask some hard questions. Am I a faithful friend? Am I more concerned about being served than serving others? Do I notice when other women are looking for a friend?
I suddenly realized that I have a lot of work to do in the area of friendship. As God is opening my eyes to the real and serious needs around me, here are some things I’m learning to do in my friendships.
1.Listen to the Holy Spirit – I’ve been trying to look around my church and community with fresh eyes, and here’s what I’ve seen: women who are lonely, who are longing for real connection, and who feel like they’re standing just outside the circle. Once I began to really pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s nudgings, I knew that there were specific friends I was supposed to pray for and connect with. Let’s make a habit of truly listening to the Holy Spirit and then acting on His desires.
But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5
2. Be vulnerable – If I’m not careful, my Facebook and Instagram feeds can make my life seem perfect and easy instead of what it really is (hard and messy). Instead of drawing people to myself, these false fronts intimidate them and scare them away. I certainly don’t need to share all of my mistakes and ugliness with everyone I meet, but I do believe God wants us to be real so that we can help and support each other. Let’s make a habit of being true and vulnerable with each other.
Carry each other’s burdens. Galatians 6:2
3. Forgive easily – I have a friend who sometimes apologizes for making me “sift through her words.” Because I have taken the time to get to know the heart of my friend, however, I don’t mind sifting her words at all. I’m not easily offended because I know her intentions and am able to assume the best about her. Let’s make a habit of giving each other the benefit of the doubt.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other. Ephesians 4:32
4. Stay the course – I’ve realized lately that I’m a great friend in a crisis (make food, pray, send texts!), but I’m not always good about staying the course. Friends who are dealing with illness, death, or disobedient kids need just as much support weeks and months down the road as they do on the day of the crisis. I’m learning to simply ask, “What do you need?” and “How are you doing?” long after the accident or diagnosis. Let’s make a habit of continually supporting one another.
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
5. Be willing to sacrifice – For me, the sacrifice of friendship has often come in the form of time. If I’m not careful, I can spend all of my time on my own needs and tasks. Entering into someone else’s life, however, requires me to set aside my own desires and make time for my friends. I’m also learning to pray sacrificially and even fast for the needs of others. Let’s make a habit of living sacrificial lives of service to our friends.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10
Ultimately, as we learn to love and serve each other in friendship, we are following the example of Christ himself, who loves us all fully and perfectly!