The Importance of Friendship
As a child growing up in Colorado, I remember my favorite thing in the world was when the doorbell rang and I’d hear a familiar voice inquire of my mother, “Can Shelley come out and play?” If my chores were complete, I’d bolt out the door to spend hours escaping in fun and adventure with a treasured playmate.
The gift of play. It’s how we formed our first friendships. When we’re young, we’re more open to making friends and throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into being with them. We had lots of time —hours and hours—to spend goofing off at sleepovers, hanging out at the mall, playing sports, and talking about boys. All that activity with friends builds close relationships.
But as adults, how often does our doorbell chime and someone ask us to come out and play? We are so absorbed and entangled in work, family, and other obligations that friendships are the first thing to be relegated to the back burner. We don’t lose the need; we lose the ability.
According to research, forfeiting our desire to cultivate friendships is the worst thing we can do for our emotional and physical health. Psychologists think friendship is more important than ever before. Landmark studies suggest that friendships between women are special. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. There's no doubt friends are helping us live longer!
Yet, if friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life these days, and if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, then why is it so hard to find time to be with them? Why do we allow friendships to become optional? It’s a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another.
Over the years I’ve cultivated close, meaningful friendships that have endured the test of time. But other times I’ve formed bonds that were beneficial for the moment and then dissipated as life’s circumstances changed. I’ve been an exceptional friend and did things right, but there have also been those times I failed as a friend and did everything wrong. But even with a good and bad track record, I recognize the need for other women in my life.
The foundation of any strong, healthy, balanced friendship is a relationship with Jesus. Just as God desires to be friends with us, God desires that we form godly friendships. We need others. Ecclesiastes 4 states many reasons why two are better than one and ends in verse 12 with: A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. I believe that the cord of three strands is God, a friend, and you. You cannot have a true binding friendship unless God is at the center of it.
Believing that all friendships are the same is the biggest mistake most women make in building relationships. The heart has many chambers. Each chamber needs to be filled with groups of people who meet our needs in various ways. Think of friendship as divided into three levels:
1. Social friends – These are women you see from time to time and visit with a little bit about your lives.
2. Smaller, closer group of friends – You open up your life more to these friends, resulting in a deeper connection to them.
3. Soul-tie friendships – You probably will have only a few soul-tie friendships in your entire life. These are women with whom you are completely open and honest, and who will hold you accountable.
We need all three types of friends to be a well-rounded person. I have a friend that I call to go to the theater because she’s a movie buff like me; another friend who is my shooting buddy and we go to the gun range together; and other friends I see weekly at Bible study. Then there are those few I journey much deeper with and share intimate details about our circumstances.
I’m often asked, “How do you build friendships?” First, look for a few people who interest you. Then begin to communicate that you care in small ways. Invest in their lives. If it doesn’t work – try again. Hundreds of potential friends are out there!
Finding the right friend, of course, begins with being the right friend.
- Do things for them – send a card, call them, or watch their children for an evening
- Spend time with them
- Don’t judge
- Forgive – offer grace
- Always be there
- Pray for them and with them
The goal of friendship is that we both grow into fully mature “little Christs,” which is the meaning of the word Christian. The question I must ask is, As your friend, how can I help you become more like Christ? In everything we do together – play, work, endure, enjoy, hope, plan, dream, celebrate – in every moment of our friendship, this is my role.
What undiscovered blessings are you missing because you haven’t opened your life or your heart to a friend hand-picked by God? He’s weaving your life together with other individuals to create cords of three strands. Will you let Him?
Can you hear it? There’s the doorbell ringing. Can your heart come out and play?