In almost 20 years of ministry I have found very few people have real friendships.
Let me define “real.”
If friendship to you is merely a shared goal or common annoyance then yes, you have lots of friends. Nearly the whole of the Indianapolis Colts stadium are my friends as we cheer or bemoan the progress of a game. Yet they don’t really know me and I don’t know them.
Maybe you are blessed to have friendships that go far beyond this. You have moved to the level of shared significant experiences, like a soldier or someone who faces serious illness. You have bonded with those who have joined you in something intense, even dangerous.
These are much better, but still not necessarily the level that brilliant authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or C.S. Lewis have described.
Don’t hear me wrong – your real friendships can include the experiences mentioned above, but those don’t necessarily make someone a true friend.
Let me offer two things drawn from the works of the aforementioned authors.
- Do you TRULY share in your friends’ personal victories and hurt in their personal failures? When you walk into a friend’s nice new house do you feel resentment and jealousy or do you truly take joy in their success? If you find your heart and mind working to protect your pride or justify away their success, you aren’t actually for them. A way C.S. Lewis deals with this is by asking these types of questions: Can you be transparently you with them, or must you exaggerate, play a role, or wear some mask while you are with the person?
- Does your connection with this person go beyond a single experience or type of experience? In my youth it didn’t take long to realize some of my friendships were only because of a sport we played or parties we went to. Remove the sport or the beer and there wasn’t anything really there. The more transcendent the bonding agent, the truer the friendship can become. Bonhoeffer calls for spiritual connections. Brothers and sisters that share in an eternal purpose can bond in a way that transcends many temporary things. Take time to identify the bonding agent you have with your friends.
Many have acquaintances but few have friends. Job 16:20, My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God. Oh how beautiful and dangerous when we move from observing the lives of others to deeply participating in them.
Honesty, I only have 6 people I would place in this category. We have been friends since childhood, they know every part of my life, and we are all followers of Christ. Though we live hundreds of miles apart we have a bonding agent in Christ that keeps us in communication weekly. They are my brothers, my friends. Any need, any time, any place we commit to be there for each other. These friendships are worth the work. If you have someone who is this for you send this to them and thank them for their real friendship.