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.
Becoming a very good friend and being a very good friend are not the same thing. It can be challenging to remain a very good friend without a fair amount of practice and work. For example, one might be on the path to becoming a very good friend by driving you to the airport at o-dark-thirty on a rainy morning. On the other hand, being a very good friend might mean driving you to work for 38 days because your car is in the shop and you haven’t figured out what Uber is.
Being a very good friend goes both ways. It is a two-way street. It is give and take. If we are doing it right, it’s probably more give than take. If both people are doing it right, it doesn’t feel like work at all because both give more than take.
Even so, there are moments, hours, days, weeks when I might not be nice to be around. Maybe I’m sick. Maybe I’m stressed. Maybe I’m just grumpy. Probably just grumpy.
It is in these moments and hours and days and weeks when the work part becomes obvious. Does anyone really want to be around Grumpy all day? Being a very good friend means weathering their grumpy days too. With a smile, if possible.
The art of being a very good friend requires practice. Daily, if possible. This is where we learn how to be better, care more, give more, take less. Even if must do so with clenched teeth. With practice, we may come to realize God has been doing in us what we could not do for ourselves. Namely, becoming other-people-focused.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Proverbs 17:9-10
A subtle and surprising side effect of practicing good friendship is our hearts may be changed into something extraordinarily beautiful: selfless, honest (not deceitful), pure (not sick). There’s a good chance we will become more tender and more vulnerable.
An (often unintended) side-effect of being a very good friend is becoming vulnerable. But not all at once! We will eventually allow ourselves to be vulnerable, which is a crucial ingredient for healing us of our self-hatred, self-condemnation, self-focus, self-centeredness, and selfishness. Vulnerability is necessary for being a very good friend; but it is also key to allowing ourselves to be healed from what makes us sick. Give and take.
Spiritual wisdom flies in the face of our sin-tainted logic. This wisdom says be vulnerable. Be transparent. Be humble. Be yourself. Be accepted. Be loved. Be willing.
Without vulnerability and transparency, can anyone ever know the real us… and have the opportunity to decide whether they actually like that person? Without being vulnerable, we will never know.