Eight Needed Values for Thriving Friendship
Our friendships are some of the most important relationships we have in our lives, but sadly, many of us don’t prioritize our friendships. That’s a problem.
Friends allow us to act out the gospel here on earth. We get the opportunity to practice selfless love and forgiveness. And we reap the benefits!
Science has found that friendships make us healthier, happier, and even increase our life expectancy. Consider the following from The Science of People:
- Physically, social connection is linked to lower blood pressure, lower B.M.I., less inflammation, and a reduced risk of diabetes across all age groups.
- One of the longest-running human studies on happiness has shown that relationships are the number one key indicator of joy and happiness.
- Data from 148 studies have shown that people with stronger social connections are 50% more likely to survive! In other words, weak social relationships or a lack of friends is correlated with a greater risk of death, regardless of age, sex, health status, or cause of death.
But it is important to note that all of the benefits of friendship come from healthy relationships. Toxic friendships will do just the opposite. Nor will you enjoy these benefits from your social media friends (a.k.a. followers).
For friendships to thrive, there has to be more than the occasional wave, “like” on a post, or small talk at the water cooler. We need friendships that go deeper than acquaintance-level.
Take the friendships depicted in the Bible, such as Jesus and his disciples, David and Jonathan, and Mary and Martha, or Jesus and Lazarus. Each of these friendships were based on strong attachments and intimate bonds.
Do you have close friendships like these? Do you know how to be that kind of friend?
Let’s take time today to discuss the eight values that help people move beyond mere acquaintances to closer-than-family friends.
Shared Hope in Jesus
The key to a healthy, thriving relationship is a shared hope in Jesus Christ.
Often, we choose friends that we have something in common with, such as hobbies, neighborhood, or school. But these things change. Friendships that stand the test of time need something more foundational.
Augustine wrote, “There can be no true friendship unless those who cling to each other are welded together by You, in that love which is spread throughout our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.”
Relationships centered on Christ will endure the test of time and the challenges of life. These types of friendships bring glory to God.
Healthy friendships don’t just happen. The people in these friendships must be intentional.
Intentionality is a friendship value because it shows you value your friendship enough to give it your time and energy.
Friends should be intentional about getting together and keeping in touch. They should be present in each other’s lives – even if they are long-distance.
Lifeway explains, “Lasting friendships are ones that have seen lots of intentionality poured into them. It takes sacrifice to make sure that good friendships are fostered and grown. Jesus spent a significant amount of time with 12 genuinely good friends who just so happened to be called His disciples. He was intentional in spending time with them after a long day of walking among the crowds.”
Plenty of people have surface friendships. You know exactly what I mean. I’m talking about those friendships that never go beyond surface level.
That’s because it’s scary to be vulnerable, but Christ-centered friendship requires vulnerability.
We have to let our friends know the truth about our lives – the good, bad, and the ugly. I often say it this way: You can only be truly loved to the extent that you are fully known.
Maybe this seems extreme, even harsh. However, if you refuse to allow yourself to be known, then you will only be loved for the façade you present.
Healing and intimacy are discovered when you let your walls down. Consider this piece from scripture:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed... – James 5:16a
Even if you don’t read the Bible, you’ve likely heard the verse, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
This refers to sacrificial love. Christ demonstrated this love for us on the cross and directed us to love one another.
Wheaton Magazine adds, “Agape love is a high calling in a society that teaches us to ‘network’ for strategic career motives, where people often enter into a relationship to get something out of it for themselves.”
Sacrificial love means serving a friend even in a difficult season and putting their needs above your own.
By focusing less on ourselves, and more on listening to and helping our friend, we are easing their burden, much like Paul encouraged the Galatians and all of us to do.
Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2
Forgiveness is central to friendship. Why? Because we are all sinners, and we all need forgiveness.
The only way for friendships to endure the test of time is to practice forgiveness. No one gets along 100% of the time. There will be disagreements.
And that’s good news! How so?
It means we have the opportunity to practice forgiveness here on Earth and demonstrate the beauty of it to those around us.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also forgive. - Colossians 3:12-13
Encouragement and Consolation
One of the greatest benefits of friendship is having someone to cheer you on or someone’s shoulder to cry on. That happens in genuine friendships.
When we love our friends, we can’t help but encourage them or console them depending on the circumstances. We can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Lastly, thriving friendships need accountability.
The Bible has much to say about friendship – including dangerous friendship. The key distinguisher is that Christ-centered friends bring each other closer to God, not further apart. That’s what happens in accountability.
This means a true friend won’t always agree for the sake of agreeing, but they will gently call attention to issues that need to be addressed. These friends are more focused on helping their friend grow in holiness than hurt feelings.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. - Proverbs 27:17