What does it mean to be a friend?
I’ve been thinking on this lately, because I stink at maintaining friendships. If I don’t naturally see a friend on a recurring basis because of work or church, chances are that there will be months between our conversations. I take days (or sometimes weeks if I’m honest) to return phone calls. I offer vague suggestions like, “Let’s get together soon” and don’t follow up. I see important life events on social media and often don’t take the time to engage. I’ll read a text and finally remember to respond days later.
And that hurts people I love.
A couple of weeks ago, my family took a spontaneous day trip to another town. On the way, my husband and I started talking about some friends we know in that town and how long it had been since we’d seen them. The wife in the couple had been a dear friend and coworker of mine. We’d had a level of honesty and openness with each other professionally that remains unrivaled in my career. I decided to contact them and see if they’d like to meet up.
Even though it was a random invitation with short notice, our friends said yes and we had a nice lunch catching up. But that’s not my point.
When I texted my friend about lunch, I received a message back that said “Who’s this?” I sent back my name and who I was trying to reach. While waiting for a response back, I hurriedly checked her facebook page to see if she’d gotten a new phone or something. I was surprised to see that we weren’t friends on facebook anymore. Hmmm… I hadn’t even noticed.
When the response came back, my heart sank. I realized she had deleted my number from her phone and unfriended me on facebook. Undoubtedly because I had not kept in contact and had hurt her deeply in the process.
Oh, how easy it is to make excuses in a situation like that. I am busy. I do have a three-year-old. We do live two hours away now. I hate to talk on the phone.
But God is teaching me that making and keeping friends requires lavish amounts of selflessness.
Selflessness that looks like contacting a friend by phone even though I’d rather text, listening to their stories before telling mine, intentionally noticing things going on in their lives, and proactively considering how I can help.
The friends that I have been able to keep are great forgivers, full of grace, and have low time expectations of me. And I am grateful for that! They love me in spite of me. I hope they would say that when I do finally call back that I’m a loving, godly friend that’s worth waiting for. But I’ve got to do better than that! I want to be a woman that honors God and blesses other women through true and authentic friendship.
So again, what does it mean to be a friend?
Proverbs says that a friend loves at all times. We can look to 1st Corinthians to see what love is and does:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
So I’m committing to be a better friend. I don’t have time or energy to be a 1st Corinthians friend to everyone on my social media lists or to all of the women I come into contact with during the week, but I can seek out a few intentional friendships and pour into those women. I think I’ll start by making a phone call…
What about you? What action can you take today to be a better friend? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.