What does a real friend look like?

Real friends are those people who when you make a fool of yourself, don’t think that you have done a permanent job. Proverbs 18:24 says “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says “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!”A friend is someone who is there when the good times aren’t.

We tend to think that we have a lot of friends, but the older we get we realize that we have a lot of acquaintances but very few friends. Based on John 17:17 [“A friend loves at all times”] there are no bad friends.

A friend will tell you the truth, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Friendship is based on mutual love. As much as you know they will share the truth with you, it also means you can share anything with them because you feel safe — honesty, openness, authenticity, transparency. Our tendency is to wait till we trust someone before we are open. But most first impressions begin with a deficit. Openness and honesty does not mean airing your grievances, or advertizing your dirty laundry. You don’t have to be psychologically naked to be transparent.

If it’s with a friend who loves you, why do you feel the need to disguise it? Would you want them to fake their feelings for you? If you expect them to be transparent, then you have to be transparent. If you want to speak the truth, then you have to hear the truth. The Bible tells us that openness between friends is actually therapeutic. James 5:16 “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”

You can’t change that person but you can change how you communicate. And if you think there’s a lack of transparency in your friendship, then open up! Be the one to get the ball rolling. Pick up the phone, get in your car. Take the risk! If you don’t put your feelings out there, what makes you think they’ll start!

If you want to love someone but you won’t allow yourself to love them – maybe because of past hurt or your own insecurities then your own self-absorption will caused your own discomfort because you are refusing to feel the warmth of true friendship. As a friend once told me, this just means we are emotionally constipated.

But perhaps the real issue is more of emotional covetousness – when we view friendships for only what we get out of them. If you love someone because of what they bring to you (a lifestyle of luxuries, popularity), then when what they bring to you is gone, your relationship will be gone too. Once again, God’s word speaks to this in 1 Cor 13:5 “…Love is not selfish…”

When a friendship’s similarities turn into differences, jealousy emerges. But God’s got enough blessings for all of us – don’t get jealous of other’s blessings. How do you feel about God’s blessings? Jim Elliot said: “God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.” Love what you have not what you don’t have. True friends experience joy when you experience joy, they don’t control your joy. If your friend needs more of you than you have to give, then those unmet expectations will lead to jealousy. The depth of intimacy between friends lives between the ceiling of jealousy and the floor of contentment.

A true friend lets you experience the blessings God has for you, BUT controlling friends don’t let you go because they haven’t learned to be content with the blessings of God in their own life. Controlling friends don’t look to God to meet their needs, their looking to you. You can’t be God. You have to learn to feel contentment with God if you want to feel closeness with friends. “The best friend is the one who knows the most about us, and loves us just the same; there’s only One Who loves like that, and Jesus is His Name.”

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