HOW TO BUILD HEALTHY FRIENDSHIPS
BASICS #1 – Get Interested in Other People
Proverbs 18:1 (NLT)
Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense.
Philippians 2:4 (NIV)
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When I got dressed this morning, I looked into the mirror to see how I looked. I was concerned about what others would think of my appearance. Be honest, isn’t that true for you too? Now, there is nothing wrong with looking sharp and having our hair in place. However, too many times we are stressed out worrying about what others are thinking about us. Here’s the truth – “THEY’RE NOT!” We are, by nature, selfish and self-serving people. When I see a group photo that I am part of I immediately look at myself, and if I pass the “eye” test then the photo is good – don’t we all do that? To be a great friend we must start by putting others first before ourselves.
Here’s a tip, learn to ask “open-ended” questions (i.e. questions that require more than a one-word-answer) of others. Get others to talk about themselves and what they like to do.
BASICS #2 – Don’t be a Chronic Complainer
Philippians 2:14-15 (NLT)
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
You might be a complainer and not even know it. Here’s a tip, ask the close people in your life if you tend to complain and have a negative look at life. Ask them to be “brutally honest” with you. Nobody wants to be known as a complainer or a negative person; so get some perspective on your own life to see if you tend to be that way. If you discover you are a more negative person than what you thought, then work on giving compliments instead of complaints… as my grandma always said; “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything.”
BASIC #3 – Be a Good Listener
James 1:19 (NLT)
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
This is a simple one and it builds off of the tip from number one, “ask open-ended questions”. Now, here’s the follow-up to asking good questions; don’t think about what you will say next while the other person is answering your questions; instead, listen to what they say. If you have not had the practice of asking others questions there are great resources available (question books and even websites).
BASIC #4 – Accept People Unconditionally
Romans 15:7 (NIV)
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Do you ever have a certain feeling with people, a feeling that you’re just not sure where you stand with them? A feeling that you’re not sure if you can be completely honest with them; a feeling that if you share your thoughts about a certain topic you might be looked at differently. Yeah, that’s probably conditional friendship. I have several guys in my life that accept me unconditionally and I accept them unconditionally too. It means that I can be completely honest with them about what’s doing on in my life and I know that (even if what I share goes against their core ideas) they will accept me as a person. They are not “Yes” guys; instead, they have their own opinions and we can disagree about some big things but we still accept each other.
Here’s a tip; to become better at accepting others, start by believing the best in others. Here’s an example, if you have a meeting with someone and they happen to be 10-20min. late or they just don’t show up, don’t think to yourself how irresponsible they are. Instead, think the best in them and pray for them, maybe something came up that was a big deal (traffic accident, emergency medical appt., emergency at school or at the house, etc.). Then, the next time you do connect make it a point to follow up. Allow them to explain what happened and own it. Maybe they were irresponsible, but it’s not your place to pass that judgment.
BASIC #5 – Help People Feel Significant
Romans 12:10 (NIV)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
We want to know that our life has meaning. Sometimes we can simply share with our friends the things we see in their life that are significant, or maybe we need to have a heart-level talk with our friends to help them re-focus their life for greater significance. I remember one conversation I had several years ago with a friend; he seemed to be “spinning his tires” in life and failing time and again on many business decisions. However, whenever he had the opportunity to counsel people he would excel at it – and he gave really good advice. So I asked him if I could be honest with him about something I saw in his life and I told him he needed to do more counseling because it gave him a great return on his time. After thinking about it he agreed and he hasn’t looked back!
BASIC #6 – Be Sympathetic
Romans 12:15 (NIV)
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Being sympathetic can be really easy if we have our eyes and ears open. Watch body language, listen to the conversation, observe facial expressions. As you “tune-in” to your friend’s behavior, you will be able to pick up on their highs and lows of life. When you observe their ups and downs, enter in and rejoice or mourn with them. If your friend is going through some tough time, don’t feel like you have to “fix” their issues, you can simply tell them that you are sad they are going through a tough time.
BASIC #7 – Stick with them in Tough Times
Proverbs 18:24 (TLB)
There are “friends” who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Building off of our last point of being sympathetic, it is important to “be there” during the tough times of life. Showing up for a funeral, preparing/providing a meal during a family crisis or emergency, visiting them in the hospital, listening to them when their marriage is stressed out or sitting with them when their children are bringing stress to their life. Everyone will go through tough times in life; it is encouraging to have a friend with you in those times.
BASIC #8 – Share Christ with Them
Luke 8:39 (NIV)
“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
Luke 6:31 (NIV)
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
John 15:15 (NIV)
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
I really like how Rick Warren states it; “Will anyone is in heaven because of you?” Now, I know Pastor Warren is not suggesting that I can save anyone (that is what Jesus Christ offers us). But, will anyone come to know Jesus because of my influence on them? Will anyone (most importantly your close friends) know about Jesus Christ and the life He offers because of your influence?
Jesus has given me a new life, a real-life worth living. Because I value the life I now live with Christ, I want to share it with my close friends. I cannot keep my relationship with Christ a secret from my friends; can you? If your friends don’t know about Christ in your life, maybe it’s time you share with them the relationship you have with Jesus and that He gives life real meaning.
I hope you enjoyed this four-part series on friendships; if you were encouraged by it please pass it on/share it with others.
This series; “Improving Your Relationships” was inspired by my study of the small group curriculum Transformed – How God Changes Us.
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