5 Facets of Meaningful Friendships
The best times with friends are the times you’re so wrapped up in the present, you forget to take photos to document it. This past weekend, I got together with some of my closest college friends for one final reunion before the first in our girl gang gives birth to a baby boy in August. I didn’t take many photos of our time together, but c’mon, now—I’m a blogger who genuinely loves to snap shots of her life, so of course I snuck a few.
Only, our best moments together weren’t the ones you’ll see below, from when we strolled the Embarcadero in Morro Bay—a halfway meeting point for a group that’s split between NorCal and SoCal, plus one Washingtonian—or from the following morning when we grabbed coffee in downtown San Luis Obispo before splitting ways. No, our best moments together were the ones in between—the informal, normal-life type moments that don’t happen at a coffee shop or on a FaceTime call. The kind we shared all the time when we lived in a house together our senior year, and didn’t quite realize the specialness of until adulting forced them to be more few and far between.
Our best moments this weekend included the morning we scrounged the cupboards of our Airbnb to pull together a breakfast of eggs, bagel halves, and coffee, and sat round the little breakfast nook by a window overlooking an overcast coast, still in our jammies, sporting morning breath and last night’s mascara. Then there was the night we opted to eat in so we could curl up on the couches and catch up on the heart things going on in each other’s lives, while we devoured the bag of delicious cookies my friend Brittany baked.
Later that same evening, we ended up taking turns giving each other back massages, which I realized, was a beautiful picture of friendship. As I sat there waiting for my turn, mind fixed on the moment when it would be my turn to receive, not give, I realized I had it all wrong. Massages only work if the same attention you give to your own turn to receive and relax, you also give to the other person’s.
It’s the same with friendships. Too often, we’re too focused on the type of friend others “should be” to us, but in reality, friendships are so much better when we instead focus on being the type of friend another person would like to have. In order for friendships to work, we have to learn to find just as much joy in the moments we’re “giving the massage” as we find in the moments we’re receiving. When we do, that’s when we’ll experience the sweetest satisfaction—after all, that’s the Jesus-style brand friendship—the kind that gives of oneself for the good of the other, rather than sitting around waiting to be given to.
With that, I decided I would share five facets of meaningful friendships—these are characteristics I’ve found to exist in the most satisfying friendships, and they’re practices we can implement in continually striving to be better friends to each other. NOTE: These don’t come from me having the whole “be a great friend” thing fully figured out, they’re mostly things I’ve learned from the beautiful souls who have been incredible friends to me—some of whose faces are pictured in these frames, and plenty others who are not.
1. GIVE GRACE IN THE MESSY MOMENTS
When you’re good friends with someone, you’re going to see their bad moments, and sometimes their broken edges might rub up against yours. One of the best gifts friends have given me is forgiveness when I needed it, and the assurance that my worst moments don’t define me. Be the friend who sticks it out even when things get sticky or when you’re hurt, and tempted to walk away. Be willing to have honest conversations, own your mistakes, and dole out grace like it’s going out of style.
2. SEE THEIR GOLD AND CALL IT OUT
I’m endlessly thankful for the friends who see the person I was created to be, and refuse to lose sight of her even when my sinfulness and brokenness get in the way. Look for the best in the other person, and when you’ve offered forgiveness, don’t keep holding the offense over their head. Believe in the gifts and calling of your friends, and give encouragement relentlessly like it’s the water they need to blossom and flourish—because it is.
3. BE A GIVER AND A TAKER
We all know the dangers of being only a taker—of making conversations always about ourselves and only ever letting others treat us while never offering to grab the tab. But there’s also a danger of being only a giver. We make ourselves vulnerable when we allow ourselves to receive from others, whether it be encouragement, advice, or resources—but this is necessary. Friendship is a two way street, and we all have needs to both give and receive.
4. KEEP GOSSIP OUT OF THE CONVERSATION
I don’t think God gave us the “no gossip” rule because He was trying to be nitpicky. I think He gave it because He knew it gossip is poison to relationships, and His desire was to protect us. Speak highly of your friends to others and if there’s an issue, resolve it with the person. If we make it a habit of refusing to speak negatively about people in general, it brings a security to our relationships in assuring the other person we’ll do the same for them.
5. GIVE GENUINE EFFORT AND BE INTENTIONAL
Send the text. Set up the Skype call or coffee catch-up or lunch date. Especially post-college, friendships don’t just happen in the lazy hours between class or endless free time on weekends—they’re cultivated, and they take intentionality. The friendships that last are the ones where both people put in effort to stay up to date in each other’s lives, to ask how to be praying for one another, to create opportunities to make fun memories together.
What do you think? Have you found these to be important characteristics of meaningful friendships? What other practices in being a good friend would you include? Let me know in the comments.