So, how many friends do you have? Can you count them on one hand? Two? Maybe you need a piece of paper to write them all down…
Hold it, Liz. What kind of friend? That’s really the question.
According to those in the know, most people can:
- Maintain 150 casual friendships
- Keep in contact with 50 good friends
- Stay fully engaged with 15 close friends
- Develop a deep bond with 5 intimate friends
Higher numbers than these, and our relationships grow shallow, superficial. Lots of smiling and “Hey, how you doing?” and not much else.
Real friends do real life together. You know each others’ stories and keep each others’ secrets. You say “I love you” and mean it. You’re there when the going gets tough. Even when you can’t take time, you make time.
If that’s the kind of friend you’d like to have—and the kind you’d like to be—the book of Proverbs gives us three ways to deepen our friendships.
1. Provide good and loving counsel.
Say you’re considering a job offer or struggling with a prodigal child. You’ll probably seek the advice of a close friend—in Hebrew, a “companion, fellow, neighbor.” You do so because you trust them. And because you know they genuinely care.
The pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. Proverbs 27:9
That pleasantness, that “sweetness” (AMP) is like “a fragrant forest” (GW), as aromatic “as perfume and incense” (NLT). Any time a friend looks you in the eye or takes your hands, her show of compassion is “sweet to the soul” (DRA).
You can tell she’s really listening. Your situation matters to her. It’s clear she’s offering “earnest counsel” (ESV) and “honest advice” (NIrV), not just dishing out platitudes.
A friend always speaks from the heart. Even when the words might hurt.
2. Say the hard things.
Which is more difficult—hearing a hard truth or speaking it? I’ve done both, and I’m sure you have too. Either way, ouch.
Over the years, I’ve had friends gently but firmly point out my pride (thanks, dear Annie), my mistaken beliefs (bless you, Linda), and my blindness to my own sin (long list of people to thank here.)
Now the good news.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted. Proverbs 27:6
A friend offers such correction “out of love and concern” (AMP), right? Her words, however pointed, are “intended to help” (GW). We need to hear them, and who better to tell us? Plus, such wounds are only temporary. Our “bruises” (CEB) will heal, and the sting of that emotional “slap” (NCV) will quickly fade.
Meanwhile, your friend has proven she is “faithful” (ASV), someone you can “trust” (CEV). She’s also given you permission to correct her when needed. This is what real friends do for one another.
It’s not a judging thing. It’s a loving thing.
3. Love no matter what.
Yes, even if you don’t take her advice or heed her correction; even when you foolishly go forward (or backward or downward), a friend is still there for you.
A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17
The true test of friendship. Not walking away when a friend does something stupid or embarrassing. Accepting each other as is. Loving each other “all the time” (EXB) and “through all kinds of weather” (MSG). Remaining “loyal” (NLT) to your friend “regardless of the situation” (VOICE).
This is what Jesus does for us, beloved. He is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). He proved His love for us when He “laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). If we want to know how to be a better friend, Jesus shows us the way.
Lord, rather than simply counting my friends, I want to be fully accountable to them. To give and receive heartfelt advice. To speak and hear the hard things. To love my friends like You love us. Generously. Faithfully. Sacrificially.
Dawn Camp, one of my writing sisters at (in)courage, has a wonderful book, The Gift of Friendship: Stories That Celebrate the Beauty of Shared Moments. I’m tickled to have one of my own stories included among the 52, which focus on pursuing friendship, what hospitality really means, developing friendships on purpose, and more.
A random drawing produced 5 happy winners for The Gift of Friendship: Patricia, Cindy, April, Glenda, and Crystal. Heartfelt thanks to all who left comments!