6 Practices of Intimate Friends
I walked into a room with eight total strangers. New mentees "grouped up" by my church . . . future leaders who’ll grow in community this year. Some will scatter when it’s over. A few will become life-long buds. But a couple of these guys will become intimate friends. How does that happen?
Bob Goff says there’s only room for eight people around your deathbed. For years, I’ve half-joked about "the six guys who’ll carry my coffin." Benj Miller talks about +1. He’d be thrilled if guys had just one intimate friend . . . one guy to share life with. To know and be fully known by.
So here’s my description of an intimate friend and some thoughts about the "art" of building and maintaining friendship at that level.
Authentic love and acceptance – Guys who love each other. They just do. Naturally, not forced. They enjoy each other’s company. They like a lot of the same things . . . work in the same field, etc. Often, there’s something from the past where a selfless act was met with a debt of gratitude. That something "jump-started" the relationship but doesn’t define it. They choose to continue to love each other . . . to give grace and forgive each other’s frailties.
Common worldview and purpose – Intimate friends usually see the world through similar eyes. They often share a "bigger picture" purpose, like growing in their faith, raising great kids to follow Jesus, coaching sports to build character in young people, building a better community where they live, building a company or a ministry together.
Deals and destinations – Intimate friends tend to know each other’s priorities and locations . . . the "goings" and "comings." Almost subconsciously, they track big events in each other’s lives, work and families. If they aren’t in touch for a few days, they start to miss each other. Sappy, I know, but authentic!
Put each other first – It’s hard to get an intimate friend to talk about himself. He’s more interested in you . . . how you’re doing and feeling. Most people spend their words talking about themselves.
Purposeful memory – When I reconnect with an intimate friend, we resume right where we left off. We purposely remember the major things happening in each other’s lives. We pray for each other. Remembering what’s going on with someone says they matter to you, not just when they’re in your presence but all the time.
Purposeless calls – Intimate friends check in with each other. “Hey, how’s your week going?” “Are you still concerned about the meeting with your boss next week?” “How are you . . . really?” Texting makes it easier to maintain close contact. And there’s an "art" to intimate friendship. Too much attention and it’s unnatural, contrived . . . even smothering. Too little and you’ll feel like you’re a friend "by appointment only."
Intimate friendship will cost you something . . . time from your work and family, interruption of things you want and need to do. Emotional risk. Vulnerability. Even disappointment. But having lived over half my life without intimate friendship, I’ll testify the cost is absolutely worth it.
No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Question: Your most valuable, intimate friend likely sits among the people who know and care about you already. Are you willing to take friendship to another level? Ask God to lead you to the ‘friend who’ll stick closer than a brother.’