“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
It was just over 2 years ago that myself and a couple of lifelong friends set off on a surf trip from Durban to Jeffery’s Bay in South Africa. It was a road trip that had been years in the making. I’d known these guys for a long time but by this stage we were all living in different places, I hadn’t seen them for a while and we hadn’t been on a mission like this for over a decade. I can remember times when the 3 of us would spend entire summers together, surfing, exploring and on the odd occasion getting up to some mischief but I was curious how the dynamic between us was going to be, especially now that we were all older and at new stages of life. The 2 of them arrived to pick me up, I said goodbye to my wife and kids and jumped in the car and within seconds it felt like we had stepped into a time machine and we were right back where we had left off as teenagers. It was comfortable, there was an ease and any apprehension that I may have had flew out the window as we flew down the highway already laughing at the in-house jokes that only good friends have. The thing that stood out most about being back with them was how quickly conversation moved to a depth and sincerity where we were speaking into each other’s lives with a freedom and genuine concern. It was soul refreshing.
It may seem a bizarre question to ask, especially in these days of hyper connection, but do you have friends?
I want you to think about it, I’m not just asking about relationships, I’m asking specifically about friendship because there’s a difference. I looked for definitions of friendship and to be honest none seemed adequate except for a passage I came across in the Bible which puts it this way, “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity”. We may have a lot of people we are in relationship with, that we’re connected with and this may or may not be a good thing but it is undeniable that we are created for more than just relationship, we need friendship.
Friends are the people with whom we let down the guard, drop the facade and get real with. People we laugh with, cry with and expose everything of who we are knowing that it’s safe. Friends, we all need them and we all need to be them.
I look back on certain periods of my life and still one of the biggest regrets that I have is thinking that I’ll be ok with just relationships and then never going beyond a certain level to build friendships. It’s a mistake to navigate the pathway of life not having true friends.
So what does this look like? How do we have these friends? Well, instead of looking at it from a receiving perspective, I want to look at it from a being point of view. We can’t and obviously don’t want to control or force other peoples behaviour and feelings but we can take responsibility and be a good friend.
This is being a friend:
Be vulnerable and be safe. If we want friendship then at some point we need to take a risk and reveal what we believe to be our weakness’ or faults. Yeah, some may run a mile but some will accept and love you regardless. Also, be that person who when others take a risk with you, you’re a safe place for them.
Be generous and be receptive. Generosity is all about giving, about being open handed and liberal with what you have. It’s not only material but be generous with your words of encouragement, with your time and with your presence. Don’t withhold when it’s within your ability to give. Also, be receptive. When others choose to be generous toward you, humbly accepting is in a way bestowing blessing and growth upon them.
Be interested and be interesting. I think of my closest friendships and all of them at least began around a common interest, which is mainly sport. What do you love doing and are passionate about? Stay true to that because it’s most likely the catalyst to great friendships. Being interested is also about proactively reaching out to a friend and stepping in instead of waiting around until it’s to late. Be interested in their well-being, their marriage, their kids.
So much has been spoken around loneliness and the epidemic that it is in the western world, which is counter intuitive when looking at what’s available to connect with people but friendship doesn’t just happen, it takes us placing value upon it and then doing something about it. Please, reach out to someone, call someone, meet up with someone, it’s to important not to.