‘I’m sorry I’m too busy to meet you’, have you ever had this response from someone? Why are we so busy in these times? We seem to work more hours chasing that pot at the end of the rainbow in the hopes that we will eventually ‘get to that point’ where we are on top enough to find time for each other. However it never comes…
It’s interesting that more often than not when someone dies everyone suddenly finds time to attend the funeral. But was it more important to be there for that person while they were alive or at their funeral? It’s been said a friend in need is a friend indeed. I’ve never quite understood this saying, as on face value it seems to imply a friend’s neediness is an attribute of a true friend. Then there’s that well known song: “everybody needs somebody sometimes…’.1
Well we all ‘need somebody’ for relationship, and cannot be ‘lone rangers’ in this life.
I heard a story once of a new maximum security jail that got built in America. The jail was very big and for individual cells only, so the jailers had hardly no contact with other human beings whatsoever. Apparently a month after the jail was filled, the jailers were breaking down mentally and there was an urgent need for medical attention. Very soon the authorities realised that they needed to build a mental ward facility next to the jail so that’s what they did. Even those in jail need to be on contact with other people.
And there’s another case where in Cook County America the jail there has been dubbed as: ‘America’s largest mental hospital’. It has been reported that at least a third of jailers suffer with physiological disorders. In fact it’s got to the point where the prison guards have been encouraged to treat the jailers like mental patients rather than prisoners.2
When relationships aren’t present, people can break and the consequences are sad.
In the UK the reports aren’t much better with the Salvation Army reporting that almost half of people in Great Britain have felt lonely at Christmas.3 That is a worrying statistic; it seems that people aren’t as dedicated for being there for one another as they once were. I don’t think it’s any surprise that Britain is straying more and more away from Christian values. Christians and the Church have always strived to be there for others and help their communities.
Jesus said: ‘…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven’ (Matt 5:16). Indeed Jesus was implicit that as Christians we should not only love God but love one another also he says: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. And: “Love each other as I have loved you” (Matt 22:39).
As Christians we should be setting the example of what true loving friendships should look like. To cultivate good friendships means sacrifice. This could be a sacrifice of: time, money, service and energy. However we should be willing as Christians to cultivate these aspects. God says that: ‘Greater love has no one than this: ‘to laid down one’s life for one’s friends’. Cultivating friends mean we must sacrifice, and sometimes that means putting others before us.
My heart warms when I see two friends encouraging each other after church and chatting away about their weekend. I believe God is glorified when out of our relationship with him, we seek others to love and encourage. Me and my wife have had wonderful friendships from church over the years that have helped us in our life.
There are many great stories of friendships being founded in the church, however I think as a church we do have room for improvement.
Truth be told since me and my wife have come to Cambridge we have found it challenging making friends in the church. It has been one of the hardest things we have had to do moving from our old Church and area and coming to a new area we know hardly anything about. It means we had to reset everything and start again, which wasn’t easy at all.
It’s difficult to follow up with people if I didn’t recieve a response the first time, however in the vein of ‘not giving up’ I sometimes do. Often though I become disheartened as many seem too busy and do not suggest a later date. There others who I invested so much time into, organising Bible studies for them each week at my house. However after I don’t hear from them at all, and when I see them they pass me as if they never knew me.
There was this one guy I met who was kind friendly and who I had so much in common with. We met for a drink and after the last time we met, he suggested we start a ‘brotherhood’. And he really encouraged me and I really thought we could build a good friendship. However the third time we were scheduled to meet he said he couldn’t be there because he had ‘too much work’.
When I went to Brisbane, Australia I knew no one there. I went on a year long working holiday, and got alongside a local church. I met this great guy called Steve. Steve was one of the friendliest people I’d met. We had so much in common and we were always there for each other, and would pray for one another. We felt like we could talk about anything to one another. We trusted each other, and Steve was always there for me and I was always there for him. Even at times I had no where to live and Steve put me up at his house and at times even lent me money. Steve was everything you would want from a friend and set a great example to me.
Everyone has room for improvement in the area of being a good friend, and I am always learning. So I’ve come up with 5 tips to be a better friend:
TIP # 1 – Love God
It’s been said: ‘you can’t give what you don’t have’ and if we aren’t prioritising our love for God then we have no love to give one another. God is love and he deserves to be our priority, and in an ultimate sense he is our most important friendship. 1 John verse 10 says: ‘Anyone who loves their brother or sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble’. Feeding daily on God’s Word and praying for his help in our relationships will help us love one another better. It is only when we recognise the love the Father has shown us can we love others. In John 13:35 it says: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.
Our love for God means that we recognise that we have been saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our many sins and failures. Therefore we can show grace and love to others.
This means we forgive each other if we’ve been wronged. It means we don’t criticize or harshly judge one another. It means we don’t gossip about our friends behind their backs. It means we demonstrate trust when keeping secrets about them. It means if they are going through a hard time financially we offer to pay for the drink, or maybe buy them a meal. Or maybe offer to help them financially.
The Apostle Paul writes beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13 verses 4-7 of how we are to love as Christians he says: ‘ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres’.
TIP # 2 – Be committed and available
I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of ‘fly by friends’. You know the kind? The ones that will be nice and kind to you when you first meet them. Then as soon as ‘they get popular’ you never hear from them again! We should be willing to be there for each other and be prepared to be a friend in the ‘long run’. This means that we always know when to meet next time, and we don’t let huge mounts of time drift between meeting up. Have you ever heard someone say: we should do coffee sometime’, but they never make a time. Never say that, instead ask: when are you next free for a coffee’? Then commit to this in your diary and follow through.
Be a man/woman of your word, say what you mean and mean what you say. So if you say you will be there at 5:45pm be there at 5:45pm! And yes I know there are circumstances like traffic and urgent needs that can delay you. But if that happens communicate it as soon as possible to your friend with a sincere apology.
And if your friend wants to meet you, don’t say your busy for the next month! I’m sorry unless you’re out the country for that month there’s no excuse for this. Best friends are available for each other, and find time for each other no matter what.
I have heard it said friendships are like water if you don’t water them they will die.
If you are only available to meet a friend once a month don’t be surprised if they lose patience with you and want to befriend someone else.
TIP # 3 – Don’t try to be everyone’s friend
Have you ever seen the recording breaking shows where they have people doing magnificent ticks or stunts trying to beat a certain record? I saw one once of a man who was spinning big white dinner plates on different rods. He had many rods around him and began spinning 1 plate, then 2, then 3,4,5. However soon some plates started falling down so he put new plates back up. He was working harder and harder sweating more and more as he darted from plate to plate like a squirrel. Inevitably he could not pay enough attention to all the plates as he couldn’t be everywhere. It’s the same with relationships, we can’t be everyone’s friend it will be too much for us.
However we can cultivate two/three best friends, and should make sure we invest in those friendships. You would rather build great friendships with two/three friends rather than building no great friendships with 10 friends! Let me preface this by saying I’m not saying don’t be friendly or loving towards new people that come into your life. Always be loving and encouraging to all everyone, however being a best friend is a whole different level.
I’ve seen people in church life try to be everyone’s friend and it hasn’t worked. In fact I would do this early on in church life, and what ends up happening is you end up not having that one truly great friend that would be the best thing for you. They say you can’t count your best friends on one hand, so Pick two/three friends that are friendly to you and take it a step further by meeting them regularly and encouraging them.
TIP # 4 – Be quick to listen
I’m coming up with a lot of ‘sayings’ in this blog so apologies, but here’s another one. It is said that ‘the art of conversation is listening’ so make sure you’re being a good listener. This means cultivating patience and a genuine interest in the other person before yourself. John Maxwell writes that when he was a Pastor and he counselled people his attitude was: ‘Hurry up and finish telling me your problem so I can give you my solution’. 4
However this approach he writes didn’t work because he writes: ‘Much of what I did was all about me, yet I still wasn’t succeeding. I was often self-centred, and that was at the root of most of my problems and failures’. Not listening to the other person can often break rapport and make them not feel valued. So if we are to be effective as friends we must listen and listen pro actively to what they are saying. Then they will feel comfortable to share things with us and will feel encouraged that we are spending the time and energy to do this. And of course they will in turn reciprocate listening to what we have to say also.
TIP # 5 – Be truthful
Many years ago I just to watch the TV show Pop Idol, where people auditioned in front of 3 judges for a record contract that would bring them fame and fortune. It was very entertaining but often I cringed for those who were really bad singers. What saddened me was that sometimes the singers believed they really were good singers despite professionals from the music industry confirming they couldn’t sing well.
What’s worse is the people that auditioned would often say things like: ‘My family say I’m a really good singer and encouraged me to audition’. However the most loving thing their family could have told them was that they needed to work on their voices to improve. Instead they gave them false hope and they ended up embarrassed on national television.
Love speaks truth and whether that truth will hurt the person or not it is still important to give them that truth. For example your friend may have developed other toxic relationships that are throwing them astray and leading them to immorality. As a good friend it’s important to be truthful of the consequences to them. Or if you find that they are overworking themselves and neglecting their families it’s important you speak up and warm them that this is not good as they will burn out. Or if their spending has got to the point of being reckless and out of control, you must tell them the truth. Let me say I don’t mean being harsh with them, but at the same time being firm in our convictions of accountability and truth.
In the church context it’s quite helpful to Biblically council each other when nessicary using God’s Word. What could be more powerful? But we must be truthful, because overtime our friends will trust our judgments on them are for their own good and because we love and care for them.
I thank the Lord for providing me my best friend my wife Rachel.
Well I hope this blog on friendship was helpful, I would appreciate your feedback. Please see below some recommended websites and books that are helpful with regards to friendships.
I’d love to know your thoughts, how are you going when it comes to friendships? What experiences have you had? What are some of the things you have learned when dealing with friends?
John C Maxwell – Everyone Communicates Few Connect – Available to buy at Wordery book shop: https://wordery.com/everyone-communicates-few-connect-john-c-maxwell-9780785214250?currency=GBP>rck=TWQ1cmlyZXdLWWRaNnlYeHUzNEl6UDhyKzdPMHczeWN5VVFBOEZaWTZlR3VFcXVWNXExaTk1eDRTME1MajRGOHpmeFNRanhNaC9OM2d6ZXVna2grdEE9PQ&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_4zl6-DQ3AIVTr7tCh2yVQSuEAQYASABEgK5ifD_BwE
Got Questions? Article on true friendship:
Listening to Others by Joyce Huggett –
True Friendship by Vaughan Roberts – https://www.10ofthose.com/products/16347/true-friendship
1 – Dean Martin performs ‘Everybody needs somebody…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ja32uS-bD0Featured images used for free usage from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-dawn-foggy-friendship-697243/
2 – America’s Largest Mental Hospital Is a Jail article located at: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/americas-largest-mental-hospital-is-a-jail/395012/
3 – Salvation Army poll finds almost half of Brits have felt lonely at Christmas article located at https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/salvation-army-poll-finds-almost-half-brits-have-felt-lonely-christmas
4 – Quote was from John C Maxwell ‘Everyone Communicates Few Connect, Thomas Nelson, p27 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7715488-everyone-communicates-few-connect
Other: Spinning plates images was from: https://networkmarketingpro.com/articles/duplication-is-essential-for-success/
Featured friendship photo was from: Helena Lopes – https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-dawn-foggy-friendship-697243/