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Thursday, May 31, 2018

5 Signs of a True Friend

How many friends do you have on Facebook? Maybe a couple hundred. Maybe a thousand. How many true friends do you have? Maybe a few. Maybe one. Maybe none.

All of us desire to have deep, personal relationships with other people. To put it simply, most people want to have deep, meaningful friendships. But it seems most people rarely, if ever, find this type of friendship. Why? I wonder if we’re looking for our friends to have qualities which don’t translate well into deep relationships.

By no means do I claim to be an expert on the sociology of friendships. But I have gotten an opportunity to watch numerous friendships both thrive and fall apart. The ones which seem to thrive have quite a few things in common which are absent from the ones which fall apart. Based on these observations, I’ve compiled five signs of a person who is a true friend. As you’re reading these five signs, I encourage you to try to think of a few people in your life who embody these characteristics.

1. Someone Who Loves You Unconditionally

My experiences indicate that most people love and care for others on a conditional basis. As an obvious example, many sales people make you feel like they care about you when you seem interested in the product they’re selling, but if you’re no longer interested in their product, they don’t seem to want anything to do with you. Unfortunately, many people act the same way in their friendships. As long as they think they can get something out of you, they want to be your friend. But if they don’t think you have anything to offer them, then they want nothing to do with you.

A true friend is someone who loves you unconditionally. Maybe you’re in a spot where you don’t have anything left to give. A true friend is someone who continues to love you even though they’re not getting anything in return. Maybe you’re struggling to make an important decision. A true friend is someone who doesn’t tell you what to do, but comes alongside you to unbiasedly sort through the alternatives and allows you to make the decision. Maybe you decide to take one path but your friend has counseled you to take another. A true friend is someone who continues to love and support you even when they disagree with your decision.

Basically, a true friend doesn’t dispense or withhold their love and care for you based on your actions, beliefs, or decisions; they continue to love you regardless.

2. Someone Who Forgives Your Offenses

As much as we’d like to believe that a true friend is someone who will never hurt us, this thought is a complete fantasy. Although we may have some of the absolute best friends in the world, we’re going to experience hurt in our friendships.[1]

Forgiving our friends when they hurt us is extremely difficult. Maybe a friend said something mean to you. Maybe a friend shared a piece of confidential information about you with someone else. Or maybe a friend didn’t respond to your text message. Our natural response is to want to punish the person for their actions. When we forgive someone, we let go of the offense such that we no longer want to or feel like we need to punish them.

The sign of a true friend is demonstrated when someone forgives your offenses against him. It’s not necessarily that he forgets all about the offense, although that may happen over time, but when he forgives you, he chooses not to hold it against you.

3. Someone Who Answers Your Call at 3:00 AM

Many people will make themselves available for you when it’s convenient for them. But how many people will make themselves available when it’s extremely inconvenient for them?

At some point, we’ll all encounter at least a few situations where we need help at inconvenient times. Maybe we’ll get a nasty email or text from someone in the middle of the night and be so shaken up about it that we need to talk it out with someone. Who can we call? Maybe we’ll get in a car accident during the middle of the workday and need someone to pick us up from the hospital. Will one of your friends be willing to leave work in order to pick you up? Maybe our house will catch on fire and we need a place to stay for a few nights. Will one of our friends open up his home to us?

A true friend is someone who prioritizes you so much that he is willing to be inconvenienced in order to be there for you when you’re completely helpless.

4. Someone Who Is Honest with You

With so many opportunities for us to hide behind layers and layers of facades, it’s hard to find nitty gritty honesty. I think the number one reason friends aren’t honest with each other is because they’re concerned their honesty may cost them their friendship. This manifests itself both in their lack of honesty about themselves and lack of honesty about their friends.

Many people aren’t honest when sharing about themselves because they fear their friends will reject them based upon an inherited condition, decisions they’ve made, or struggles they’re facing. And many people don’t give their friends their honest opinions (when asked for) because they’re worried their friends will get offended or upset with them.

A true friend is someone who is both honest with you about himself and honest with you about yourself. Now I’ll be honest: I realize how deeply rejection hurts, but if a friend rejects you because of your honesty, that person wasn’t a true friend; stop wasting your time trying to build a friendship with someone who doesn’t want to be a true friend.

I want to clarify that when I talk about being honest, specifically when it comes to counseling a friend, I’m not talking about counseling with an attitude that has little to no concern about how the friend will respond. The attitude embodied by a true friend is one which recognizes the importance of being honest, but is also gentle and willing to walk alongside you to help you wrestle through your thoughts and feelings about it and, when you’re ready, work with you to develop a game plan for how you’re going to work through it.

5. Someone Who Is Trustworthy

The truth is that there are a lot of people in this world who, whether consciously or unconsciously, will throw you under the bus in order to get what they want. Something personal you share with another person could become public if put in the hands of the wrong people. This has the potential to completely destroy your reputation, career, and friendships.

A true friend is someone who is trustworthy. You will be able to trust this person to keep the information you share as confidential and not be concerned that it may show up all over the news.

As a clarification, it’s important to find the balance between our honesty and our friend’s trustworthiness. It wouldn’t make any sense for us to share every deep, dark, personal secret with someone we don’t trust. As you build trust with another person over time, you’ll probably share more and more with each other.

As you read this article, did anyone in your life stand out as a true friend? Are there other characteristics this person embodies which also make him or her a true friend? How can you demonstrate your appreciation to this person for being a true friend?

[1] Hurt is not solely a function of something our friends do; it also includes our expectations. We may expect our friends to be or do things that are completely unrealistic. Are our friends to blame for the hurt we experience from these unmet expectations? Hardly. Maybe they had something to do with it, but it’s not all on them.

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