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The Company We Keep: What to Look for in Friendship

Friendships are hard. Even if you are the near-perfect friend, you have likely been on the receiving end of some nasty gossip, hurt, or hatred.

Though we may get hurt, I believe friendships are worth the effort and vulnerability. There are some qualities of good friends that can help us determine whether we are safe to invest more. Though every person will have differences in specific qualities they look for in friends, I have found a few can carry over to the masses.

The Nine Things to Look for in Choosing Friends: (And also what we can aim to offer others)

  1. How they treat others. “A nice person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.” We all have our moments of rudeness. But when choosing friends, let’s look for people who aim to be kind to all. If the friends we keep gossip about others (especially their other friends), we mustn’t be fooled. They have proven they will slander their friends. The moment you disappoint them, they will most likely slander you. Its only logical. Even in ‘venting’: If you hear a person vent about their friend in a manner YOU would not want to be vented about, I would not trust this person in full. There is a healthy way of venting. I know my best friends need to vent about me at times, but I trust that they do this with respect and in love.

  2. Their love isn’t based in guilt. If a person only offers love when they HAVE to, it will likely be a friendship of unequal give and take. Friendships are meant to be based in love, not obligation. NO ONE is perfect in this, so we don’t need to be knit-picky. But if a person only offers you something when he/she feels obligated, it may not be the friendship you want to invest in. Obligation fades (especially in desperate cases), while love endures. When your car breaks down in the middle of the night, would you rather have a friend who is eager to help you in love, or one who drags his/her feet, wondering if someone else will help first?

  3. You connect with them. Obviously, there will be some people who understand you better than others. I’ve met great people I do not connect with. This does not mean they aren’t valuable, but it does mean I won’t invest all my time trying to connect. God made each of us uniquely, and some of us will feel more alive around certain people (and not others).

  4. They will stand by you even when you aren’t at your best I fully believe in the phrase, ‘if you can’t love me at my worse, you don’t deserve me at my best.’ This is loyalty 101. We will not always be at our best, and we want friends who are steadfast in their love. When we go through hard times, we don’t need to be worried about our friends ditching us. Sure, the friendship may have to look different, especially if your worst is endangering them… but overall, we want friends who say “Yes” to our friendship even when we can’t imagine anyone saying yes. It is these friends who will change how we see the world, and will teach us that we don’t need to strive to be lovable.

  5. They push you to be the best you. They don’t want to compete for who has the most together. In fact, they aren’t interested in comparing your life to theirs at all. They know that you being the best you can be and them being the best they can be are separate matters. They encourage you to strive towards your dreams, and they don’t bring you down in order to feel higher. These are the people who encourage you towards your dream job, even while they are sorting files at a dumpy office.

  6. Your imperfections do not threaten the friendship, but these friends won’t stand for you hurting them. The way you date, dress, or drive will not turn this friend away. This friend will stay loyal through phases, encouraging you to be who God made you to be. They love you through disagreements and differences. Your imperfections (or more likely- differences) do not send them running from your friendship. They do not need to agree with every aspect of your life. *It is easy at times to become like the people we surround ourselves with. Therefore, if your habits are discouraging them in their own lives, allow them to take space. But even space will not mean destruction, because you know this friend will always be there for you in some fashion. A healthy person may need to take space from you, but they will take space maturely, showing you love and encouraging you all the while. (Example: a recovering alcoholic taking space from his partying friend).

  7. They don’t pressure you to do anything against your values For me, relationships with people are a top priority. The only person above friends and family is God. Therefore, if a friend is dead-set on pressuring me to do something that goes against my belief in God, they have misunderstood his/her position in my life. Many times, people do not mean to do this. We can remind them, but if they are insistent on pressuring you to do things against your values, they may not be the friends you want to keep.

  8. They’ll take your word for it You won’t always have the feeling that you need to defend yourself. You won’t need to convince them of your goals or values. They will trust you.

  9. They show up. They show up for birthdays and funerals. They are dependable to be available for important times. Of course friends may miss a few, but their hearts are loving and willing.

We will all fail in friendships at times, but let's at least know what we desire in friendship. Let's stop settling for fear-stricken relationships with no base of trust. We can be wise about picking loyal, caring people…and deciding to be loyal and caring in return. Even now, if we are friends with a gossiping person, we can refuse to hear any gossip from them. (while still giving grace because they aren't perfect). At times, we will look for all the right things in people and still get betrayed, but we can move forward confidently knowing we chose wisely and it simply didn’t work.

Friendship is tricky, and picking friends often relies on shallow trivia, but we can change that: looking for good-friend traits in our potential friends.

Friendships have the ability to restore our hope in humanity. They are some of our favorite blessings, but often we find ourselves reeling in regret because of them.

If you are like me, you want friendships that are loyal, loving, and fun. BUT, if you’re like me, you’ve been burned in your search for beautiful, life-giving friendships. Our wounds from gossip and betrayal are deep. And perhaps we have debated whether trying to find new friendships and invest MORE of our hearts is worth it.

But it really is. Friendship is a beautiful picture of God's heart. It is being on each others' teams, and being selfless for the others' sakes. What a great thing to offer and what a great thing to receive!

And, while we can have grace with our friends if they don't check all of those 9 points, WE can aim to be all 9 for others. So yes, look for these 9 things, but even more- be these 9 things.


Published for Grafted Magazine

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