1. Don’t wait; initiate.
This is a big one. In every friendship there is usually one person who initiates more than the other, whether this is through text, phone calls, or inviting each other to do something together. However, the friendships that have been such a blessing to me are the ones where the friend makes just as much effort as I do. There are personality differences in this too. I am an extreme extrovert so I love meeting new people and making new friends. My friends who are introverts can sometimes have a harder time reaching out and, this is part of the grace you give each other when one drops the ball.
Let me say this though, the close friendships I’ve had usually develop into more of a mutual effort, despite the personality differences. I think part of this is growing up and just realizing if you don’t put effort into a relationship it will not grow in any way. I have encountered very few inherently selfish people who just stayed how they were and consistently made no effort but, always wanted others to make ALL the effort with them. It’s exhausting to constantly cater to someone else and never get anything in return especially as grown women who have a lot of other aspects of life they are balancing. Look to be a blessing to others rather than always looking to get blessed. Be the kind of friend that you want. This ALONE will make you a better friend to someone else.
2. Give them grace.
This point alone is my biggest strength and weakness. We all need grace. The sooner you realize that every person you meet on this earth is in need of grace to have a lasting relationship, the better off you will be. It took me years to realize that every person is flawed and some flaws you can overlook and some you may not feel you want to accept, and that’s ok too. Also, you have to realize that you are flawed and people have to overlook your flaws as well.
When a friend has a difference of opinion.. you have to give grace.
When a friend parents different from you .. you have to give grace.
When a friend falls short and isn’t there for you.. you have to give grace.
When a friend hurts your feelings …you have to give grace.
There are so many situations that you have to give grace but, for some the relationship is not worth it depending on the situation and, only you can decide that.
Some of the best quotes I’ve ever heard about this I found in Jen Hatmaker’s book “For the Love”:
“We have no obligation to endure or enable certain toxic relationships.”
“There is a time to stay the course, and there is a time to walk away….. when an endless amount of blood, sweat, and tears leaves a relationship unhealthy when there is virtually no redemption, when red flags have frantically waved for too long-sometimes the healthiest response is to walk away.”
Due to hurt I’ve experienced in the past, I have realized this can be my flaw too. I have overlooked too many major things or even become a doormat to friends before because, of the fear of not wanting to lose any friendship despite of how horribly I was treated as a friend. You don’t want to be like that. You want to make sure you friendships are still mutually beneficial and, not one-sided in every way. At the same time, I’ve had friendships where we have pushed through uncomfortable conversations and showed each other grace, which resulted in us developing a deeper and closer relationship.
3. Pray for them & with them.
I have been blessed to have some amazing friends that instead of just saying they would pray for me would actually take my hand and pray with me when I was going through some hard situations. If you don’t have the chance to pray with someone, praying for them is still the next best thing. It’s amazing the peace it brings and, how powerful it is when 2 people pray together. The Bible tells us there is power in that. I have found that sometimes friends that are the least vulnerable are the ones that need the most prayer. They usually are the ones that have the most they struggle with and are embarrassed to share their truth.
Every single person on this earth struggles and has hard days. No one can go a full week without a challenging day because, we live in this world where sin is very present and, there is a real enemy we have in Satan that is constantly trying to steal our joy. So, pray for those friends that don’t even ask as well as those who do! Prayer is the most powerful and supportive thing you can do for your friends. Pray for their kids and wisdom in parenting them, their marriages (because marriage is hard work), your friendship with them, their other relationships and everything in between.
4. Treat them.
Whether your friend is in a hard place financially or at the top of a mountain, everyone appreciates it when they receive any type of gift. Whether you buy them a little gift or treat them to a meal or desert, I guarantee it will not be easily forgotten. I know it is always better to give than receive so, why not to this to encourage your friends.
I have known some awesome people who would bring my family a meal when I was sick or offer to bring over medicine and babysit so that I could get some rest. It is a gesture that shows them how much you care about them and value their relationship. Everyone is different but, I try to do this a few times a month because, there is always a reason to justify what I need to “Save” my money for, and it’s usually something that only enhances my life or my family’s lives so.. it’s usually selfish. This is a great way to come out of yourself, trust God for your finances while being a blessing to someone else.
5. Be honest & vulnerable.
I’ve talked about this before in “The Bravery of Truth Telling” but, it is so important to grow any type of relationship. When you share your struggles, your fears, your joys and successes a friendship goes to a deeper level. We have made up so many “rules” and lies that we believe will safe guard ourselves from being vulnerable with each other. The truth is that God constantly encourages vulnerability with each other in His word. He wants us to walk together, share and, encourage each other. His most important commands are 1- Love God and 2- Love people. I’ve said this before but, staying to yourself in your own little bubble, with your own little voice is one of the most dangerous places you can be.
Loneliness truly is a prison but, we have the keys to unlock it through community. We have to seek community though, it’s completely our choice if we rather live this life “safe” and lonely or take the risk and flourish. God has made us with a desire to be loved, cared for and share in genuine connection with each other. Sharing life together and overcoming that fear of being judged while building that trust is one of the most impactful things you can do for a friendship.
The thing is that you don’t want to do this with everyone. You have to use wisdom (not fear) in who you do this with. However, if there is someone you meet that you want to get to know better and have a deeper friendship with all you have to do is open up and people will feel safe to do the same with you. It opens up the door for others to share about their lives and struggles when someone else shows them it’s a safe place to do so. No one wants a “perfect friend” that shows no vulnerability. We can get that on Facebook. Surface relationships with no depth. We seek to authentic, real friendship where we can laugh and cry together.
When talking about vulnerability, this also refers to confronting a friend when they have done something hurtful to you. Many of us have had our feelings hurt and some tend to be more passive about it and, that leaves you no where but with more resentment.
Now, grace is not bringing up every little thing. People will get on your nerves or you may not agree with something they have done but, you pick your battles. I’m talking about things that need to be discussed that can really harm your friendship. It is wise to bring it up to your friend, you should care enough about them and the relationship that the discomfort is worth the end result. Give them an opportunity to apologize or talk it out and hear their point of view. Many times confrontation can bring you closer because, you worked through something and stayed friends.
There are times when all you can do is what you know to be right, and you have to leave it in the other persons hands to care enough about the friendship to work through issues. If they don’t your probably better off without them because, it’s directly related to how much they value you and your friendship. One thing I do know is that passive, surface friendships are never as rewarding as the real, knitty-gritty, cry and laugh together friendships. You can actually leave a friends couch and feel just as revived and refreshed as leaving a church service because, God uses people in real ways in each others lives.
So, today look for ways to be a better friend to someone. Be courageous and be real with another person about your fears, struggles, joys and accomplishments. Seek to be the kind of friend that you deeply desire. A few of the great friends that I’ve been blessed to have…..
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For more on friendship, Check out: “Why women choose lonliness over real friendship.”
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