No matter whether your life is going good or bad, the right people can make it all worthwhile. Here are 7 qualities of great friends.
A few weeks ago I had something that brought up a lot of memories from a difficult time last year. It was quite confronting remembering some of those harder moments. The power of a memory is actually quite profound – it can bring you right back to that moment. In processing some of those memories, I was thinking about the people in my life, then and now. It’s amazing how much our friendship groups change over time, isn’t it? One minute you’re used to a certain set of company, the next your circle of close friends may have changed completely.
Either way, there are friends in your life who help you get through the difficult seasons, and those same friends help make the good times even better. I’ve been grateful for many people in my life who’ve been there for me when I’ve needed it, and even when I haven’t, but just to be there. I think that’s one of the awesome things about friends – they’re just there, sometimes not even for any real reason – they just are because they’ve decided to be there.
So tonight I thought I’d write this one in tribute of all those outstanding companions out there. Here are 7 qualities of great friends.
Making the special times special
I love the friends in my life who make the special times special. When it’s your birthday, it’s a big deal. When you’ve achieved something big at work or in your study, they’re wanting to celebrate it. Even when it’s something smaller like making a big decision or facing a change, it’s so encouraging knowing you have people in your life who are going to champion what’s going on in your life.
I think you can only really get good at that by being good at asking questions and actually finding out what’s really going on in people’s lives. If conversations are only ever on the surface, you’re never going to know just how much there is to celebrate or be concerned with in a friend’s life. I think the other great thing about that is that you get to find out what things are actually close to a person’s heart, and the things that are a big deal for them, even if they may seem minor to someone else.
A balance of “me” and “you”
I think good friends know how to have a good balance of “me time” and “you time”. That is to say, they know when it’s their turn to share and to talk out things in their life, and they know when it’s their turn to listen. How draining is it when you’re in a friendship where it’s entirely one sided, and the other person is always taking and talking and imposing their will on the relationship? On the flip side, it’s also good having someone who knows what they need and when they need it.
All of us sometimes just need someone to give us some good encouragement, or some right advice, or even just to be there to listen. All of us should also know how important it is to let the other person have their time to share how they’re feeling, too. It’s both of us together.
Margin in their life
One of the most helpful principles I’ve learnt is to build margin into my life. Not running everything down to the wire, not filling every spare hour with activity, but having some room to be flexible and to accommodate for unknowns in my week. Some extra time to have a night off in a week to recover from everything, or an extra few hours to catch up with someone who may need it. Margin gives life some much needed breathing room.
I find the best friends make sure they have some margin in their life. You never know when someone is going to need to sit down and talk or to drop in or to get some help with a problem, and if you have no capacity for it, you’re not going to be able to be much help. A little bit of extra space helps.
Great friendships never happen by accident. Sure, they may start out that way, but if you want a relationship that really lasts, it takes your best effort. It takes dedicating time to talking and hanging out. It takes effort in discovering who these other people are. It takes being specific in how you show appreciation or interest or support in a way that’s meaningful to this person.
If you’re not intentional, you will always drift apart. Life will take its course, and you will move in separate directions. There is an element of this in every relationship, and not everyone in our lives is there for every season. But for those friendships that we know can go the distance, it’s so worth giving it our best effort.
I love the reward of investing into my friendships. It’s so great the things we both get out of it. Some people treat friends like they are a commodity or a waste of time, but I think they can be so much more. Friendships will be as valuable as the value you attribute to them.
As much as it can suck at times, honesty is such a great thing amongst friends. I love it when people can see things about me that I can’t see. I love inviting those voices into my life who can see things that are inconsistent or that I may be missing. Where I may be overlooking something, or saying I want something, but act like I want something else. Where I may feel like I’m not doing that well, but they can see how I’m actually doing and encourage me. Or conversely, I may think I’m doing well, and they can help me through my blind spots and point out some things I may be missing out on.
I think you have to both sign up for honesty. A number of my friends have said to me, and I have also said to them, that we’re going to be honest in our friendship from the outset. It’s just so much easier. People play all sorts of emotional games and live in uncertainty and assumption in so many ways – honesty just takes all the guesswork and unknown frustration out of things.
Are people allowed to speak into your life? Do you have permission to speak into others?
I love being around secure people. Sure, not everyone is perfectly secure, and we all have areas of our lives where we’re lacking. But I love it where people have their life mostly in order. Moving forward. Not people who decide to stay down, but people who are committed to getting up again, even when they may need some help doing it.
A commitment to your own health and security is actually a commitment to the wellbeing of the people around you, too. You can be a much better friend when you’re not the only thing in your life, and when your problems aren’t so big that you can’t see anything or anyone else.
At the end of the day, great friendship is treating others the way you want to be treated, and them doing the same. It’s all about love.
Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends. I wonder if we lay our lives down for each other, or if we’re still just out seeking our own interests or needs? Love is a powerful thing, and at the end of the day, it’s what takes friendship from good to great.
So thank you to all my great friends out there. You know who you are. I hope.
How about you? What are some of the qualities you really value in great friends?