Dr. John Townsend, author of How to be a Best Friend Forever: Making and Keeping Lifetime Relationships has some suggestions on how to be a better friend.
The Bible says we need friends just as much as we need family. While we are intentional about many areas of our lives, we often are accidental about friendships: instead of intentionally finding them, we fall into them. Regardless, maintaing a friendship takes effort from both people.
There are 4 spheres of relationships:
- Best friend: Your life team. A very small number of them. There is deep trust.
- Mentors: Teach, guide and bring you truth.
- Mutual: There is a friendship. You struggle and they struggle.
- Service relationships: The people who don’t offer you much in return.
- Toxic people: These relationships will harm you.
Tips for building stronger friendships:
1. Have ‘the best friend talk’ with your friends to clarify expectations in your relationships. Phone calls and face to face is the place for real conversation. Email and text messaging is not created for relationships.
2. Recognize that good friends have good boundaries. Have the ‘the best friend talk’ to set these boundaries.
3. Relationships take work and require initiative. Do a no agenda 8 minute phone call. Call to check in and ask how they are doing. Listen with no agenda.
4. Be cautious of shifting your weight from God to your friends. The Bible writes about relationships that we have two holes: one for God (Ecclesiastes 3), one for people (Genesis 2):
- Meaning, hope for eternity, direction and guidance come from God.
- Check yourself: If your time in scripture and worship feels like drudgery or empty it might be a sign that you are leaning on friends – not God
5. Recognize that a relationship can not be constructed and maintained on Facebook. It is a tool to enhance relationships that are strong to begin with.
6. Have both family and friends. We are commanded to leave and cleave. No matter how close you are to your family, you need friends outside of your family.
7. Friendships require grace and accountability. Grace to mess up; accountability to keep you growing.
8. Friendships require time. Best friends are the people you put the most time into. Even low maintenance people require time.
We all need someone who loves us how we are, but loves us not to stay how we are. This will sooner or later lead to conflict. We desperately need to be the body of Christ to each other. In times of conflict come to your friends with vulnerability and give permission for your friends to speak freely in your life.
Listen to Susie’s Larson’s entire interview with Dr. Townsend about building stronger friendships: