(I have been wanting to do a series of posts about friendship, and specifically about being a friend of God. This is the first post of the series.)
My mind has been on the idea of being a friend of God for some time, and recently it has taken root and won’t let go. I admit I do not have a long history of being a good friend to anyone; especially not to God. I maintained a long-standing rebellion actually. It was only after my conversion encounter with Jesus that I began to even think like a friend with sincerity.
Now years on this spiritual journey, I have a few very close friends, a smattering of close friends, a somewhat larger circle of friends, and many acquaintances.
We should define friend in the context of this blog, just so we are on the same page. This discussion does not include social media connections; it is limited to real people that we know and see on a somewhat frequent basis. But that includes a lot of people that are not friends. Looking deeper:
- Merriam-Webster defines friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem” and “a favored companion”.
- Oxford dictionaries defines it as “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.” Right. Let’s be clear on those boundaries.
- org dictionary says “a person who you know well and who you like a lot, but who is usually not a member of your family”, and “someone who is not an enemy and who you can trust”.
It is safe to say a friend is an unrelated companion who is an ally (not an enemy), that we do not have sex with, and has (mutually) earned our trust. Motivation behind these types of relationship is driven by “affection” or “esteem”.
- Merriam-Webster defines esteem as “high regard, worth, value”. Sounds about right.
To further clarify our earlier description: a friend is a person we hold in high regard, valuable (at least to us), is not a relative, not a sex partner, that we have affection for, and is trustworthy. This is still a very large collection of human beings. This description could include my boss, someone at church, or a friend of a friend.
We need more clarity. In the description of good friends, I would include other descriptors: benevolent, kind, generous with their time, pleasant, unselfish, understanding, accepting, tolerant, loving, and gracious.
Now we’re getting somewhere. That eliminates a number of people that I like and have affection for, but we’re not really good friends.
Regarding very good friends, they should also
- be willing to tell you the truth about yourself, even if the truth hurts
- accept you as you are but encourage (and admonish if necessary) you to be your best self
- have your best interests at heart, even when you do not
- watch your back, and expect you to watch theirs
- celebrate your successes, commiserate in your losses, and encourage you when necessary
For most of us, this probably brings it down to a handful of people (or less). My very good friends meet most of these qualifications most of the time (hey, nobody’s perfect). Admittedly, I qualify far less often than my friends.
Yet, it is in these very friendships that we find the ability to tolerate, forgive, edify and encourage… to such an extent that the friendships are not seriously wounded. It seems the ability to accept another as-is makes a very good friend indeed.
I believe there is one more characteristic that all my very good friends have – in regard to me:
- extraordinarily forgetful
As far as I know, none of them remember the last time I
- let them down
- forgot to call
- postponed at the last minute
- hurt their feelings
- or any number of selfish and unfriendly behaviors I exhibit from time to time
They seem remarkably absent-minded when it comes to recalling my past foibles. More on that later. Until the next time, here are some quotes about friendship: