I was asked to write for the magazine “Forever His Princess” this spring. And since the issue has been out quite a while now, Elisa Knicely (the editor) kindly let me publish the article on here as well. So you will find this topic geared towards the girls and young women – yet I know I am still learning these things in my own friendships.
Cultivating Healthy Friendships
Who doesn’t want a good friend? Friends who stick by you in hard times are one of God’s greatest blessings. They say that friendship divides the sorrows, but multiplies the joys – and I have found this to be true! God didn’t make us to be little islands. He didn’t want us to be all alone in a huge ocean with nobody around. We were made with the need and the capacity for companionship.
But sometimes having a friend can be scary. You might end up hurting them or they might hurt you. You might ask yourself: Is it worth it? Perhaps the better question would be: How can I be a good friend with healthy friendships?
I don’t consider myself very old. Maybe just a little old. Okay, so compared to you young girls – I probably am rather old. Nearing forty! But in my “almost forty” years of life, I have learned some lessons on building awesome friendships.
1. Jesus first.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:37-39
This is such a simple and profound statement. But it holds the key to not only great friendships, but to a joyful, peace-filled Christian life. The more we love God, the more we will love our brothers, sisters, friends, and even enemies. God wants all of our heart to be His first! And once we have established Him as the King of our hearts, we then learn how to love others.
Did you notice we are not commanded to love ourselves? God knew this would be the natural human thing to do. But the supernatural thing is to love God first and everyone else before our own selves. It takes a conscious decision and sometimes it even takes crying out to God for His strength to help you do that.
Having Jesus first will also mean you hold true to your beliefs. Sometimes friends, especially persuasive friends, will try to get you to do something that you know, down deep, is wrong. As a young person, it is hard to learn how to stand up for your beliefs and the things that you believe are right. But if you can remember that Jesus is the One you will answer to someday, and not your friends, it makes this task much easier.
2. Choose your friends wisely.
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20
That verse is so incredibly true. As a young person, your friends have the potential to shape your beliefs, your lifestyle, your attitudes, and even your faith in God. Be very, very careful and make sure you choose your close friends to be those who will give you good peer pressure. Friends who will encourage you to run this race of faith with all your might.
This doesn’t mean you should be snobby to those you consider bad peer pressure. Not a bit! We are to be friendly to everyone, but being friendly and having deep, close friendships are not the same thing. God wants us to love everyone. But when we go to choosing who we are going to open our hearts up to and who we are going to allow to influence us deeply, then we need to choose wisely.
3. Be open and vulnerable.
“Open rebuke is better than secret love. . . Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:5 & 17
This might be one of the hardest things to do in a friendship. We all want to look like we have it all together – like there are no issues in our hearts. But this is not true. Sharing openly with your close friends about your struggles can be good, especially if they are Christian friends who will help you to overcome these struggles with God’s help.
But another side of being open is to be willing to accept when they think you have done something wrong. This kind of criticism hurts. Yet one thing that always helps me to accept it is to remember that this person really and truly loves me – they love my soul. They want me to be a better person for God and His kingdom.
Sometimes being open means you will have to say “I’m sorry.”
4. Friendship is serving.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Think of friendship as a way of serving other people with hurts and joys. This does not mean you allow them to run all over you and boss you around, but it is learning that you can love them by serving and encouraging them.
Think of it this way . . . do you like when all someone can talk about is themselves? This never makes anybody feel good except the person talking. And you will usually find that these people drive others away from them – because all they can think about is themselves. It is a selfish mindset to have.
Instead, the next time you get into a conversation with your friends or even with a stranger, ask them about them. How they are doing – don’t start off by telling them all about your day! Listen with your eyes, your ears, and your heart. A good listener needs all of these.
5. Be willing to seek counsel from your parents or somebody you trust.
“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.” Proverbs 13:1
Sometimes things can get really, really tough in a friendship. And when you are young and still learning the ropes of relationships, it can be difficult to know how to navigate these waters. This is where you need wise parents or an older, wiser person in your life to give you counsel.
You might think you can handle things on your own, but sometimes a burden gets so heavy you need to share it with your wise parents. Or perhaps you simply need to know how you are supposed to respond to a situation. This is especially true if you have a friend who is harming herself or talking about it. God put your parents in your life to help guide you through the growing up years, so if a burden or secret is too heavy – please seek their counsel. In some instances, it could keep a person from harm.
When I was young, I had a friend who had a home life that had much hurt and confusion. She would pour out her woes to me and I listened, and listened, and listened. She would call so often that soon my parents realized it was dragging me down. Honestly, as a young friend her own age, I did not have the wisdom to help her. She needed someone older and wiser. So my parents stepped in and put some limits on how much time we talked or were together. We were still friends and I still cared deeply for her hurts. She knew this, but I also remember a huge burden lifted. My parents had been there to help me!
6. Learn to forgive.
“Then Peter came to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
We are all human. And as humans, we are going to hurt others and be hurt ourselves. This is a given fact. But one thing that will hold a friendship together is the ability to forgive. You might be saying that you don’t have that ability. But if you are a born-again daughter of the King, always remember that He holds the power to forgiveness. If you sincerely cry out to God and ask Him to help you in this forgiveness thing, He will do it. Matthew 7:7 says that if we ask, it will be given unto us. If we ask for things that would bring Him glory – and not glory to us – I believe He will give them to us.
So are friends worth it? Absolutely.
Friends are like sweet roses of summer. They are the ones you can laugh with, share with, and cry with. They are the ones who know you inside and out. Do everything you can to keep the good friends who are urging you to run the Christian race with every fiber of your being!