If you had to take a test on being a good friend to someone else, would you pass? I know I wouldn't. I could blame my introverted personality or my busy schedule. I could say I live too far away or that I didn't want to interrupt someone's day. But those would be excuses, not reasons.
Being a good friend doesn't come easily to me. I've let entire weeks (and in rare occasions, months or even years) go by without checking in on my friends. A lot of that does have to do with my shy nature that thrives best at home, but a lot also comes from being forgetful (and perhaps a little lazy, too).
As a Christian, however, I know that friendships are vital. We need other Christians to come alongside us, support us, and encourage us in God's Word. If we don't actively pursue friendships for these purposes, they won't happen on their own, and we'll lose those opportunities.
Being a good friend takes time and effort. It requires a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's leading. And it requires taking action. None of those come naturally to me, but that doesn't mean I can simply give up on maintaining friendships.
Today, I want to share 4 ways I failed to be a good friend and how you can avoid the same mistakes I made.
I didn't prioritize my relationships
While I've been good at prioritizing my husband and kids - an admirable quality - my relationships outside my family have suffered as a result. In short, I simply didn't prioritize them. I mistakenly thought that they didn't need purposeful tending to.
Friendships, whether with your spouse or your girlfriends, take effort to maintain. If you're not actively investing time in them, they'll dry up. We must prioritize our friendships if we want them to last.
I didn't pray for wisdom
When I don't struggle with things, I'm not humble enough to realize that I still desperately need God's help. It's really an issue of pride for me.
Because making friends comes fairly easily, I didn't take the time to pray for wisdom over my friendships. I suppose I didn't think I really needed it since I wasn't struggling to make friends. But as my friendships have matured and my friends have shared deep issues with me, I've begun to realize that I'm no better at intuitively knowing how to help my friends than I am at anything else in life.
We as Christians should be praying over everything - both the difficult areas of life and the straight-forward ones. This includes our friendships, even the ones that are going well.
I didn't listen with patience
Have you ever listened to someone only half-heartedly because you were all to eager to offer your own advice? I hate to admit that I've done this time and time again. You'd think I'd know better by now!
People often need you to listen more than they need you to give an answer or solve their problems. I usually remember this bit of wisdom in hind sight, but in the moment when a friend is confiding in me, I just want to fix it for her. It feels awkward to me when I can't help her solve the matter at hand.
When our friends share something with us, we need to be good listeners. We don't need to rush with an answer. We should take time to think on and pray over their situation. Many times, that's all they need us to do.
I didn't speak with boldness
While I need to be doing a lot more listening and a lot less speaking in my friendships, there have been times when I should have spoken up but instead remained timidly quiet. Speaking with boldness doesn't come any more easily to me than listening with patience does. And yet there are situations that definitely need a boldly-spoken word!
When our friends genuinely need our advice - either because they've asked for it or because they are living in sin and need us to call them to account - in humility, we need to speak to them with boldness. This very concept leaves me trembling in fear, but as Christians, we need to be sharpening one another's iron. If we're not ready and willing to speak the truth in love, we're not being a good friend.
Do you want to be a better friend? I know I do. But in order to do so, we need to place priority on our friendships, pray for wisdom, listen with patience, and speak with boldness when appropriate. These aren't necessarily easy tasks to accomplish, and we'll still fail miserably at them from time to time. But if we learn from our failures and use our shortcomings to make us better friends in the future, we really haven't failed, have we?
Let's ask the Lord to help us become a better friend today.