Hi, I always read about your friendships and having authentic relationships. I’d love to read more about this. How you determine relationships to pursue versus those to not kindle? I always seem to end up with friends who take advantage of me and would love to have another person’s opinion -Lael
If you’ve read my book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, you know that I struggled with friendships for the first 28 or so years of my life. A lot of this had to do with my insecure, people-pleasing personality.
I had been hurt deeply by people close to me in the past, so I had spent years of my life too scared to open up or be authentic for fear of getting hurt again.
But finally, I was so tired of living life feeling so lonely, that I knew something needed to change. And that something was me.
I had to stop trying to please people, stop staying closed up and closed off so as to avoid getting hurt, and start reaching out, being authentic, and being 100% me.
As a result of this shift in my thinking and change in my heart, I’ve developed some incredibly deep and authentic relationships… which have been such an immense blessing to me! And I’ve also learned a lot about what great friendships are made up of.
Here are 4 components I believe are key to any strong relationship:
If you want authentic relationships, you first have to be willing to be authentic yourself. You have to stop hiding behind a fake, people-pleasing persona and start being genuinely you.
Put down the plastic smiles, don’t keep people at arm’s length, and start letting people see you for exactly who you are — messes, struggles, and all. True friends don’t want you to be perfect and all put-together.
Tip: If someone doesn’t love you for who you are but instead wants you to be who they want you to be, that’s a good sign that they aren’t a true friend.
True friendship requires commitment. It means that you will believe the best, you will speak the truth when it’s needed, and you won’t gossip or slander.
It means you are FOR the other person. You want them to succeed. You celebrate them. You appreciate them. You build them up when you speak to them face-to-face and when you talk about them to others.
Tip: If someone just wants to be your friend for what you can do for them — not because they love you for who you are — they aren’t a true friend.
A good friendship requires effort. It doesn’t just happen. It means that both parties make sacrifices for each other.
Want to have great friends? Start by being the friend to others that you wish you had yourself. It means picking up the phone, taking time to text or email, and making time to get together for coffee.
Deep relationships take time and investment. They rarely happen overnight. Instead, they are the result of much cultivation, time, and effort.
Tip: If you have reached out to someone multiple times and they are always too busy to spend time with you, that’s probably a good indication that it’s time to move on to investing in another relationship.
Close friendships will result in misunderstandings and hurts, at times. No one is always going to do everything right all the time. And the closer you are to someone, the more possibility there is for there to be misunderstandings and hurts.
Some days, your friend might say something that frustrates or offends. Some days, your friend might not respond how you wished she would have. Some days, she’s just plain going to bother or upset you.
On those days, you have two choices: you can either choose to forgive or you can choose to be hurt and bitter.
Friendships that stand the test of time are ones where both parties choose to forgive when offenses and hurts come. It’s not easy and it means having hard conversations and sometimes saying things that are difficult to say. But good communication, working through issues, and having a heart of forgiveness will only deepen a friendship.
Tip: If someone is easily offended and constantly being hurt or upset by you, there’s a good chance they aren’t a good friend.
How to Be a Good Friend
- Take initiative — Don’t wait for others to make the first move. Ask your friend to meet for coffee, invite your friend over to hang out, text her to tell her you’re thinking of her. Reach out. Focus on blessing others and you’ll often be richly blessed in return. If you are thinking of someone, let them know you’re thinking of them. Oftentimes, just taking the time to text or email someone to let them know they are on your heart that day can mean the world to someone.
- Have a listening ear — People feel valued when you look them in the eyes and genuinely listen to what they have to share. Give them your undivided attention. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Just listen wholeheartedly.
- Ask good questions — Be interested in others’ lives. Learn about what they are excited about. Find out what their passions are. Ask about their goals and long-term dreams. Find out what they are struggling with. Ask how you can pray for them… and then actually follow through with praying for them! A question I sometimes will ask is just: “How can I be a better friend to you?” The answers to that one might truly surprise you.
- Find the good and praise it — Constantly be looking for ways you can celebrate someone else. Take time to express appreciation. Don’t just think it in your head; stop and verbalize it.
- Learn their love language — How does your friend feel most loved? Is it by words of affirmation, a letter, gifts, acts of service? Knowing this can help you know how to love her best.
Questions to ask yourself:
What are you looking for in friendships?
Make a list of qualities you are looking for in friendship and then think of who in your circle has some of those qualities. Start initiating things with them and see where it leads.
Who can I begin investing in?
Look around you — in your small group, church, play group, etc. — and think of a few people you already know who might be interested in a friendship. Begin investing in them. Sometimes, taking even a few tiny steps can lead to a beautiful relationship.
How can I be a better friend?
I ask myself this question often. Occasionally, I’ll even ask it to my close friends. Pour into others. Care deeply about them. Show them that they are a priority. Go out of your way to let people know how much they mean to you. Instead of spending time lamenting the fact that you don’t have better friends, focus your energy on doing all you can to be a better friend to others.
Tip: I highly recommend reading Safe People. It’s a great starting point for determining how to develop genuine friendships and how to be a genuine friend to others.