Characteristics of a Good Friend
A good friend . . .
Stays even in tough times.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Not only does this verse define friendship, but it is the test of it. Those of us who are “fair-weather friends” back away when troubles come, and the friendship no longer meets our needs. If a friend is needy or demanding or not as flattering as he/she used to be, the fair-weather friend pulls back and waits for the storm to pass.
True friends stay even when great difficulty comes. They support, love, encourage, and give real physical and financial help when needed. They continue giving even if, for the time, they seem to be getting nothing in return.
The writer of this proverb obviously highly valued a close and loyal friend, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). In New Testament Scriptures, we are told that as members of the Body of Christ we are all part of God’s family. As members of the body of Christ, we are responsible for one another, we give and receive love, and we are bound together for support. Brothers is the term used most often in the New Testament for fellow Christians and it has more to do with being true friends than it has to do with being siblings.
A true friend will tell us where we are wrong. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). A friend who hurts us in this way is pained himself by the hurt he causes, but a true friend will not let a flaw, a sin, or a broken relationship go unaddressed. In true friendship, honesty, and sometimes confrontation, is not a risk, it's a requirement!
Balances and sharpens.
We should choose friends who balance us, who are as tough as we are. Solomon says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Conversation, discussion, and even disagreement sharpen our minds. We should choose carefully those with whom we discuss issues, those we engage in meaningful conversations, and those with whom we share our innermost secrets.
Is good for us.
Our goal in conversation should be to improve our thinking skills and our understanding and to do the same for our friends. To that end, we should choose the subjects of our conversation carefully and not revert to superficialities or gossip. We should make it our goal to discuss topics, ideas, and concepts, not other people!
The writer of Hebrews gives us similar instruction in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Know that God loves to answer our prayers for friendship. I did pray for a friend once, and within a week, God brought a woman across my path and I thought about how great it might be to be her friend. Then one evening she called me for some advice and prayer about a problem she was facing. We met the next morning for breakfast and a friendship was launched. God answered my prayer and she remained one of my closest friends until she passed away a few years ago. I tell you that story just to encourage you to know that God can and will lead us to the right friend at the right time if we ask him to.
Remember that to have friends we must be friendly. Too often we sit back and wait for others to reach out to us. We must be willing to make the first move. It can be a cautious one, but if your overture is accepted, you may find yourself moving to the next step and the next until a friendship is cemented.
Grow relationships into friendships.
Nurture the relationships that are important to you. Friendships, like any other relationships, will grow old and stale without effort to keep them vital. We must put time and energy into any relationship that we want to survive. Social media is a great tool, as are letters, telephone conversations, and so on. But, best of all is time spent together – talking, lunching, having fun, working on a project, or sharing in a ministry. We must not neglect the friendships that we have. They are more valuable than we know!