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Two Secrets to Finding Friends Who Listen
As a small child, making and losing friends was something that utterly terrified me. At the age of five, I vividly remember having nightmares that my “friends” would leave me all alone, and I would have no one to play with on the playground. While that may sound childish and silly, that slight fear grew into one of the biggest dilemmas I would have to face as I grew up.
Marching up to me on the playground, I was eight years old when I first faced rejection.
“She doesn’t want to be your friend anymore,” the small and pointed chubby finger pierced my heart.
“What? Why?” my voice asked, wiping a tear from my cheek as it hit the pavement below my feet.
“Just leave her alone.” the posse smirked.
“I thought we were friends?” my heart lurched in the first experience with heartache.
“You never were.” their harsh words cared about no one but themselves.
“Why can’t she tell me then?” I questioned empathetically, hoping and praying that maybe it was a big misunderstanding.
“She didn’t want to hurt your feelings, so we, as her real friends, said we’d tell you for her.”
With a flip of their hair and wave of the hand, they were off, leaving me broken and discarded. That was the day I lost my first friend, but I lost way more than friendship that day.
As I grew into a pre-teen and teenager, that initial incident scarred my soul into believing that I had to beg for friends. Because I worried about rejection, I found myself asking anyone and everyone, “Do you want to be my friend?” But real friends aren’t begged for; they are people who choose to care about you.
By third grade, I was a victim of friend abuse. Not only did kids now find it a game to pretend to be my friend or use me for my intelligence, but many girls would also befriend me only to push me around and make me their slave. As I entered fifth grade, I reached a breaking point and isolated myself. Later that year, I met my best friend that I still have to this day. Fifteen years later, I am proud to say that she is my best friend and I am hers.
So, what’s the secret to finding these people and friends who really listen? How do we prevent heartache as I did as a child and invest in relationships worth our time and not worth our tears in the pillow?
Two secrets that surpass all others to have lasting friendships and relationships are recognizing quality over quantity and prayerfully considering the individual’s character.
Quality Over Quantity
I didn’t understand as a little girl that the quality of your friendships should be valued much more than the quantity. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 notes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV). Friendships are essential to our well-being. Man was not created to be alone relationally (Genesis 2:18), but the types of relationships we pour into matter.
Proverbs 18:24 leads by example in this distinction: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NIV). In Scripture, there are numerous examples of good and bad friends that demonstrate this principle.
The Bad: Job’s friends blame him for his heartbreak in the book of Job rather than supporting him in the unexpected turmoil. While they did encourage him in silence at one time, they were quick to speak for God without ever consulting Him (Job 4:7-8; Job 8:20; Job 11:14-17). Pharaoh’s Cupbearer forgot about Joseph in jail even after Joseph saved his life (Genesis 40:1-23). Judas, who betrays Jesus Christ, acted as a backstabber, placing his self-interest above everyone else and losing the best friend he could have ever had (Matthew 26:15-17, 25; Luke 22:47-48).
The Good: In the book of 1 Samuel, Jonathan is one of the most excellent examples of a true friend to David. Although Jonathan’s Father, Saul, is out to kill David, Jonathan sticks closer than a brother. While he may have been one of David’s only friends, his relationship was steadfast and true.
“Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah and came and said before Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your Father, that he seeks my life?” And he said to him, “Far from it! You shall not die. Behold, my Father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. And why should my Father hide this from me? It is not so.” But David vowed again, saying, “Your father knows well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he thinks, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.’ But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.” Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you” (1 Samuel 20:1-4, ESV).
Beyond Jonathan, Jesus Christ is the purest example of a friend. Though He had 12 Disciples, everyone deserted Him the day they crucified His body to a cross, yet He still said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV). Perhaps Romans 12:10 and 1 Peter 4:8-10 exemplify this the best in Christ’s selfless sacrifice for all.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10, NIV).
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:8-10, ESV).
Jesus’ friendship with the Father was enough to sustain Him at the cross. Though Job’s friends deserted him, it was His relationship with God that satisfied His broken soul. Out of all of our earthly friends that we evaluate, let it be known that Jesus should be our best friend who exemplifies what it means to be a sincere and faithful friend unto the end.
While having many friends is not a bad thing, it is often said that the smaller your circle, the closer your friends are, and the length of those relationships is more likely to last longer. Without the drama or gossip of large groups, individuals can pour into personal relationships more than focusing on the clique’s appearance.
Prayerfully Consider the Character
Finally, once we have understood that quality is more important than quantity, we must prayerfully consider the character of those we choose to spend our time with and ultimately replicate.
1 Corinthians 15:33 notes, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV). Those we hang around are evidently traits of the people we will become. Although I’d like to say I miss the friends who left me when I was young, I now realize the value of hardship. I want to be like those who never give up and stand by my side even when it’s hard.
Proverbs 12:26 of the NKJV adds, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26, NKJV).
When considering friendships, it is wise to befriend those who think similarly to you. While witnessing to those who are not Christians is a practice everyone should partake in, you also need to make sure that you’re feeding your soul with Godly wisdom and counsel.
Proverbs 17:17, Philippians 2:3, and Galatians 6:2 give great advice on how to find a friend with great character and lead by example:
“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, KJV)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NIV)
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV).