By Victoria Riollano, Crosswalk.com
We were never meant to live life alone.
In Genesis, God gives mankind the gift of companionship. However, making a choice to be a good friend is not always an easy task. Comparison, unforgiveness, lack of time, misunderstandings, and lack of desire can make having friendships feel more like a chore than an enjoyable experience. Yet, there are numerous Bible verses that speak to the need of togetherness beyond social media and occasional church gatherings.
Instead, we are called to get counsel from one another (Proverbs 12:15), motivate each other to better lives (Proverbs 27:17), and bless each other with kind words (Proverbs 16:24). Although it would seem social media would help us to connect more, more and more people are increasingly isolated and in need of true companionship. Without true friendships, we open the door to loneliness, which has been seen to have the same affect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! Those who live life alone or more likely to suffer from raised blood pressure, anxiety, sleeplessness, and suicidal ideations.
Whether we look at the biblical call for community or the health effects of being isolated, friendships matter. For Christians, having friends that draw you back to the truth of the Word and who encourage you is priceless! With this said, there are ways that we can have healthy friendships that can withstand time, various seasons of life, and even adversity.
Here are seven ways you can cultivate healthy friendships in your life.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images
1. Assume the Best
Assumptions are a relationship killer. Unfortunately, God has not given us the ability to know the intentions and motivations of other people. The friend who didn’t respond to your text may be busy, not angry. The friend who told you “no” to hanging out may be insanely overwhelmed with her home life. Rather than making an assumption about what the other person may be thinking or not thinking, we should assume the best. If truly the person has a repeated pattern of not responding, showing up where they agreed, or has a change of overall behavior, then we can begin to draw conclusions that something may be wrong. Even so, when we assume the best, we should choose not to take their actions personally. In many cases, your friend may be balancing many things, or is even upset about something that does not pertain to you. Rather than get angry, ask questions.
2. Ask Questions
The best way to kill assumptions and avoid offense is to ask questions. This goes beyond, “How are you doing?” If you truly sense an issue, there is nothing wrong with inquiring how the other person may be feeling. In most scenarios, you will quickly learn that the situation was merely a misunderstanding. These conversations are best had over a phone call or a face-to-face interaction. This eliminates the opportunity for misreading the other person’s tone or the tendency to assume the other person’s meaning behind a phrase. You can even ask questions to deepen the friendship and spawn conversation. Whatever the case may be, if you want to take a relationship from surface level, seek to know the other person in a deeper way with challenging discussion. True friendships can withstand tough conversations, adversity, and even digging into a taboo topic. Possible questions to ask when a tough conversation is needed can include the following:
– How have you been feeling lately?
– Is there anything I can do to help lighten your load?
– Is there anything I have done to hurt or offend you?
– What are your thoughts about this situation?
Photo Credit: © Unsplash
3. Have Compassion for Their Situation
Every person’s life is different. No matter how similar your life may seem to your friend, recognize that her home, family makeup, children’s personalities, work schedule, and spouse may be vastly different than yours. It can be easy to form opinions of other people’s availability and capacity to complete tasks based on what we see on the outside. Instead, we should seek to always have understanding and compassion.
Rather than be frustrated when they aren’t available or have failed to meet your expectation, seek to have compassion. We see throughout the gospels that Jesus had compassion when He encountered people who were facing various scenarios. In situations where he could have been angry or annoyed at those who were hungry, sick, or confused about the gospel, He chose to simply act out of compassion. It was his compassion that healed the woman with the issue of blood who had been silently suffering. It was through compassion that Jesus would restore the ear of a person seeking to arrest him (Luke 22:51). If we want to cultivate healthy relationships, we must be slow to anger with one another and seek understanding. As we learn the other person’s need, we can seek to offer a helping hand and show the friend in need that they have our support.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
4. Celebrate with Them
Real friends support one another. If your friend starts a business, be the first to shout them out! If your friend is expecting, be excited with her and think of ways to help her throughout her pregnancy! Sadly, in a world full of comparison, we can hear of our friends’ great news and think, “What about me?” Before long, instead of celebrating their accomplishment or life milestone, their great news becomes our pity party. True friends can overcome their personal feelings to encourage and uplift the other person. If no one else recognizes their hard work and accomplishment, seek to be the friend who cheers them on in public and in private!
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)
Photo Credit: © Sparrowstock
5. Manage Expectations
I cannot count how many friendships I have lost over the years due to a difference in expectations. For instance, one friend may expect a weekly face-to-face while another is content with a monthly phone call. One friend may expect complete vulnerability but the other may desire to keep most things private. These scenarios can create tricky situations as one friend may feel like they are not getting their needs fulfilled and the other may feel overwhelmed by the other person’s need for intimacy. Whatever the case may be, we must know that other people will not always live up to our expectation.
What they need to feel content in a relationship may be vastly different from what you desire. No matter what the circumstance, a true friend can find a middle ground and push through these moments. High expectations of other people will always lead to disappointment. I have learned that the only expectations we can place on another person are to give respect and to operate in sincerity. All other expectations add strain on a relationship and prevent them from growing organically. Friendship should feel like a blessing to both parties, not an obligation to keep one person happy.
“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31)
6. Watch Your Words
Our words matter. One thing that will ruin a friendship are conversations that lead to gossip, strife, or are condescending. Sometimes friends may feel like they have an open door to say what they choose. From giving unwanted parenting advice to making the other person feel inferior, whenever our words aren’t reflective of God’s love, people will get hurt. We must remember that our words hold the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). We can use them to encourage and uplift or to cause discouragement and frustration. If we fail to use our words wisely, we will see over time that our most loyal friend will become distant and closed off. The following kinds of conversations should be avoided when trying to create healthy friendships:
– Unsolicited advice
– Talking about a mutual friend who isn’t present
– Belittling the other person’s desires
– Being overtalkative/not allowing the other person to speak
7. Pray for Them
When is the last time you prayed for a friend? One way to have long-lasting friendship is to seek the Lord for them. If they have been distant, pray for them. If they have been going through a season of despair or heartache, pray for them. If they seem unpleasant lately, pray for them. In prayer, we will find the words to say and not say. There may even be times when the Lord will enlighten you to a specific need to help them in their situation. If nothing else, as you pray for them, your compassion and understanding toward them will increase. This is a win-win for everyone. Pray for your friends in the good times and the bad that they will continue to grow closer in the Lord and that God will use your friendship to add value and hope to their life!
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
Photo Credit: SWN