I had some friends but they’re gone,
Somethin’ came and took them away.
I don’t care if I’m hungry or poor,
I’m gonna get me some of them.
~Friends (Singer: Bette Midler; Songwriters: M.Klingman, B.Linhart)
I have found myself in that place – I had some friends, but they’re gone, somethin’ came and took them away – more times than I can say. I’ve begrudgingly accepted that I was at least partially, if not completely, the cause.
Sometimes it was because I just got busy, and ignored them.
Sometimes we had grown apart, refusing to talk it through, for whatever reasons.
Sometimes it was because I just wasn’t very nice (hard to imagine, I know!).
But a few years ago, I took a serious look at what kind of friend I was, and held it up against how God looked at friendship. I had just come off a breakup of a 10-year friendship that left me very unbalanced. Lots of spokes on the wheel had come off. The wobbly ride to its final demise forced me to look seriously at who I was as a friend. I looked in the mirror and I found my curls had grown a bit droopy.
That dang mirror never lies.
As a result of that soul-wrenching look, I have changed a few things about the way I approach friendship, and the way I accept it (or not). Of course, lots can be added to this list, but my mirror revealed these as truths that were missing from my friend-iverse, both in the giving and the receiving.
Friends tell the truth. Always. In all ways.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. ~Proverbs 27:6
No matter what: truth. And because I know they love me, the delivery tone and method and sternness is never a determinant to my trusting that the truth being told is the truth I need to hold. While an enemy can flatter and mask dislike, a friend will wound only with cuts of kindness.
The pleasantness of one’s friend springs from her earnest counsel. ~Proverbs 27:9
Wait, what? A friend’s counsel – even the rough stuff – is what makes it an enjoyable thing? What an exciting truth to hold onto!
(A side-note: truth-telling includes forgiveness on all levels. We are all lousy at truth-telling sometimes, and tough forgivers if we have been offended. But kindness and forgiveness are all needed, all part of the always.in.all.ways commitment to being a friend!)
Friends want to, they need to, be engaged, at all levels.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. ~Philippians 2:4
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. ~Ecclesiastes 4:9
Friends pray for me, when I ask and when I don’t. And I do the same.
Friends make me laugh so hard I pee myself. Friends weep over sads.
Friends want to talk things through, catch up, know details, listen to the angst and hurts and happies.
Friends text with immediate funnies and hurts and concerns and questions.
And I do the same for them.
My friend history is mine, maybe not yours.
Many of you have had friends for years, making all of this sound a little silly, maybe even causing a ‘duh!’ murmur to cross your lips. But that is not my story.
In fact, I have held back from writing about this for a long time because I felt I was alone in this reality. I was wrong. I write this knowing that my story is the reality for too many; that many sit on the sidelines without a laugh-inducing tribe, without a pillar to lean on when it gets rough, without the chance to be a pillar for another.
I write this for one reason. Not to boast of my conquest, but to give hope to the searching: YOU can have friends. You can BE a friend. Because it’s what God wants for all of us. Not to be alone, not to be isolated. But to be in friendships that help to sustain us in a world that wants to eat us for dinner!
The turning point for me was being honest with God, confessing the truth I saw in the mirror, and asking that first, hard, honest question:
Dear God, what kind of friend am I, really?
God honors that level of transparency. He wants to meet you at the honest need you have confessed, with a heart open to hearing the tough stuff. With a willing, humbled heart to learn the way Jesus taught us to love.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. ~John 15:7
And finally, imagine Jesus whispering these words in your ear as he opens the doors to friends for you…
…they will know you by your love for each other. ~John 13:35