Relatively few of us experience true friendship; most relationships that people call friendships actually are acquaintances. There is a spectrum of intimacy that ranges from acquaintanceship to companionship to untested friendship to the intimacy of established friendship (tested by time and fire). What most people call friends are more likely to be acquaintances or companions.
It requires an intentional investment of valuable time and energy to cultivate and maintain special friendships. As friendship develops, it is natural to begin on the level of facts, to move to the level of opinions, and then to reach the level of feelings.
C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves observes that friendship is the least natural of human loves, since it is not driven by instinct, necessity, or survival value. In addition, true friendship is the least jealous of the loves, and it is essentially free from the need to be needed.
It is important that we learn to love people without being controlled or consumed by them. When dealing with people, it is wise to hope but not to expect. Never center your whole faith on any human being—only God can sustain that burden.
Quality friendships are characterized by trust, openness, mutual respect, honesty, and self-disclosure. There is no need for pretense in a real friendship; you can dare to be yourself. A friend accepts and understands you, and this includes your faults as well as your strengths.
Friendship is founded on sharing a basic consensus of beliefs; it is built on caring about the same truth.
True friendship is revealed in times of crisis. Times of adversity and distress test the reality of friendship (Proverbs 27:10).
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).
A real friend is empathetic; he or she rejoices with you and weeps with you (Romans 12:15). A false friend resents or is envious at another’s good fortune, and can secretly gloat at another’s misfortune.
The highest level of friendship includes the dynamic of covenant and commitment. In this covenant relationship, two people agree to walk together for life in trust and loyalty (Proverbs 18:24; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Friends share “the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). They build mutual histories of joys and pains.
Spiritual friends believe in each other, build into one another’s lives, and encourage each other to grow in their relationship with God. They are faithful, and they are willing to ask tough questions to keep one another honest. They sharpen (Proverbs 27:17), counsel (Proverbs 27:9), and encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13).
A real friend rebukes when necessary and is candid and truthful (Proverbs 17:10; 18:24; 27:6).
Lasting friendships keep confidences (Proverbs 17:9), listen attentively and empathetically (Proverbs 18:13), and do not seek to control or manipulate.
Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth
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