(I have been wanting to do a series of posts about friendship, and specifically about being a friend of God. This is the second post of the series. The first post is here.)
The first post contained some definitions and qualifications for 3 categories: friend, good friend, and very good friend. These are not the same the same person at the same time. A progression occurs, in which a friend may graduate to a good friend, and in rare situations may become a very good friend.
One of the defining points about very good friends is that they do not become so without significant time passing, and quite a lot of selfless giving. A lot.
By their nature, very good friendships successfully weather pleasant and not-so-pleasant life events, disagreements (or agreeing to disagree), a wide assortment of compromises, growing intimacy (into-me-you-see) without noticeably flinching, a deepening interest in each other’s lives and history and families and dreams and fears and… well, you get the picture. The investment increases not decreases. These things take time, and a lot of it. To mangle the popular movie quote, “one does not simply walk into a very good friendship”.
True friends have very rare qualities. They love us even when we are not particularly lovable. They refrain from throwing harsh words at us – but they do not refrain from speaking their truth. There is no one-upmanship with very good friends, except in jest (this double bacon cheeseburger tastes SO much better than your tofu “burger”). They hurt when we hurt, they rejoice when we rejoice, they celebrate our freedoms and sympathize with our failures.
We may be amazed at their patience and tolerance. We might find their compassion for us difficult to comprehend. We are often astounded at their insights about us. Above all that, very good friends have characteristics that fit our own peculiar personalities. Peculiar meaning “individual idiosyncrasies”. Or, in my case, just peculiar.
These friends practice love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Henry Ford said, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”
Our very good friends somehow make us better people. If we are very blessed, we may have a similar effect on them.
A hypothetical example that… Really. Is. Purely. Hypothetical. I promise.
Let’s say I’m having one of those days. You know, the kind of day that makes you want to punch Ronald McDonald in the face. And one of my friends says “How was your day?” and I say “fine!”, when it most obviously wasn’t even in the proximity of “fine”. A very good friend is inclined to probe in a way that disarms my negativity, and eventually I tell him I was so angry I wanted to knock the goofy smile off a fast-food mascot.
That kind of loving care makes me appreciate my friend even more. While very good friends cannot always save us from ourselves, they will try. And that’s more than can be said about most people. (A truly great friend would hold Ronald’s arms while you pummel him. I’m just saying.)
Very good friends tend to make us better whether we want to or not, because we admire and appreciate their insight and perspective and opinion. I mean, they must have superior judgment. After all, they chose us as friends. And there’s a good chance they would never assault a beloved restaurant character. (Ronald was begging for it. Probably.)