Toes splash in the water as three girls play, sharing hearts and enjoying the day. The joy of friendship radiates from their smiles and rings in their laughter. In this moment, friendship seems an easy gift on a warm summer day.
Though some friendships come easily, most relationships are built over time. I remember days when my girls were small. With a tear-stained face, one asked me, “Why doesn’t Annie like me?”
How do I answer that? I don’t remember what I said exactly, but this little slip of a girl already understood that friendship isn’t always an easy thing.
A big part of growing up involves learning to be a good friend.
- Take the initiative to invite friends to do things rather than wait for someone else.
- Be an encourager. Develop the habit of cheering for others and celebrating friends.
- Never underestimate the power of laughter and silly fun.
- Reciprocate—good friendship is a two-way thing. It can be hurtful to invest in a relationship and not have it reciprocated.
- Be reliable—show up and value being on time. Try your best not to disappoint friends who are counting on you.
- Follow through. Avoid vague comments, “Let’s get together soon.” Make a specific plan and follow through.
- Schedule time for friendship. It is an important part of life and not just a luxury.
- Stop feeling guilty about spending time with friends. Seriously, stop it!
- Be intentional. Don’t let busyness crowd out friendship. The busier you are, the more important it is to plan ahead for time with friends.
- Refuse to gossip and find a graceful way to squelch rumors when you hear them.
- Keep confidences. When a friend asks you not to repeat information, honor that request.
- Share the load. Volunteer to help, to listen, or to console when it is needed.
- Be real. Be brave about sharing your needs and struggles when appropriate.
- Give the grace-gift of belonging. Welcome newcomers and include others. You may have a set group of friends, but be willing to make room for more.
- Sit beside someone you don’t know well rather than always sitting with friends.
- Ask good questions that draw others into meaningful conversation. Small talk has it’s place, but sharing our real stories draws people together.
- Don’t monopolize conversations or only talk about yourself. Give the gift of a listening ear.
- Be thankful—a cherished friend is a gift from God.
- Give a thoughtful gift or send a note of encouragement. Texting is great, but old-fashioned snail mail never gets old.
- Don’t hide or excuse your mistakes and weaknesses. We all have them.
- Avoid the trap of comparison and envy. Recognize these destructive thoughts and get rid of them.
- Be careful with expectations. Many feelings get hurt due to unrealistic or unmet expectations. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have them.
- Be quick to give and ask for forgiveness. Treat others the way you want to be treated in this difficult area of relationships.
- Let go of judgment and criticism, give others the benefit of the doubt.
- Give your friend the biggest piece of cake. (I learned this one from my mama.) And don’t hog the last piece of chocolate…
We may not be able to do all of these things at the same time or keep it up all the time, but we can all do some of these things more often. Friendship is an art built on good habits of relationships.
Which one of these habits has made a difference in your friendships? Which one do you want to work on? Let’s encourage each other through leaving comments today.