“He who has friends like these doesn’t need enemies.” Or, in other words: “Who needs enemies with friends like these?” Have we heard these statements before? For instance, when a relationship is destroyed through the clash of personalities and opposing wishes?
However, we all have the need for companionship and friendship. Quality friendships are an important part of our lives. Needless to say, we are not to maintain friendships with people who tempt us to sin. If we want to be friends of the world, God’s love is not in us. What I am addressing here is true friendship that is pleasing to God.
The foundation of a strong friendship is to care more about others than about oneself. Sincere love is how to keep a friend.
More than anything else, unfounded jealousy undermines the willingness to help and ruins our friendship because it goes hand in hand with evil desire, that takes advantage of the other person instead of showing sympathy and compassion. Lack of trust also affects friendships and the willingness to be open and to share with each other.
Furthermore, unhealthy gossip soon wears out friendly relationships. We all certainly know people who constantly badmouth others – sometimes even those whom they call their friends.
It upsets me when I hear that someone is talking badly or falsely about me behind my back. I know, of course, that when such things happen, they should be ignored. There’s a saying: ”Sticks and stones may break my bones, but things being said about me can never hurt me.” However, it is not easy to dismiss what others have said about you. Scripture says: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).
Gossip, insults, and false claims destroy relationships, as Proverbs 18:19 tells us, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
Let us then ask ourselves how often inappropriate words may slip from our lips which we later regret. We can ponder a statement or question through our countless brain cells in the blink of an eye.
On the other hand, we might be “trying too hard” to make or keep friends. If we are too accommodating (always agreeing with someone just to win or not lose their friendship), then we won’t be ourselves, and the other person may have the impression that we are trying to hide our own feelings.
It is true that we should be proactive in making friends. It might be quite difficult to make new friends if we are just waiting for someone to release us from our closed-mindedness or isolation. However, it is important not to beg or creep after someone just to be liked. We certainly cannot rush into relationships in an attempt to make an impression.
Neither can we strengthen friendly relationships by sugarcoating them. This term means giving excessive praise with ulterior motives. Sincere commendation, on the other hand, is a genuine sign of appreciation that is not meant for personal benefit. In fact, we can make a person feel good throughout the day by saying an appropriate word of sincere commendation or appreciation, but flatteries are useless and can even hurt because they are without true meaning.
It is also essential for successful friendships that we listen with sincere attention. This involves not only kind silence but responding to what others have to say in a way that makes them know we consider their ideas, feelings, and experiences as being important.
In fact, we can utilize conversations with others to build a genuine friendship. This involves paying our undivided attention to the person we are talking to, without interrupting when not necessary, and supporting his or her feelings with commendation, encouragement, and hope – but we are to act in the right way, without flattery. During the conversation, we could try to guess what the other person is feeling by placing ourselves in his or her position.
1 Corinthians 13 tells us to have a positive attitude toward our friends, always assuming the best at first instead of thinking evil, but that does not mean we should rejoice in iniquity which they may commit in breaking the law.
We must continuously cherish our friendships. Disagreements are perfectly normal. If friends never disagree, it could be a sign of indifference. People with their own points of view will disagree. However, if these opinions do not violate God’s commandments; they should not cause a friendship to break up. If two people feel an intimate sense of sympathy or loyalty, their relationship will survive any constructive conversations with divergent views.
Building a friendship takes time and commitment on both sides if we want to turn it into a success. Caring more about the other person than about ourselves is what characterizes a friendship. We are especially successful when we are a loving and generous companion – one who always cultivates a friendship and strives to make others happy. Remember what Christ said: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). And the highest and greatest commandment is to love God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40).
Initial Translation: Daniel Blasinger