The older I get, the more I realize that being a real friend is hard work.
There was a time I didn’t realize that being a good friend was serious business. Gossiping was pretty common—until the day I was running my mouth to someone I later found out was the friend of a friend. After that, my interactions with said friend became uncomfortable for me because I wondered if she knew I had been talking about her. I made the decision after that incident more than 20 years ago to not only not gossip, but to make it a point to be the best friend I could be. I’ve learned over the years that there are some key characteristics to being a real friend, and I found scripture to back me up. Here are my seven secrets to being a real friend.
- Real friends don’t gossip. If your “friend” is talking about someone else to you, then chances are she is talking about you to someone else. There’s no good in gossip. Some may say it’s just venting, but let’s call it what it is. If your friend wouldn’t say those things in the presence of the one she’s talking about, then it doesn’t need to be said. You don’t have to participate in the madness. (Listening and not commenting is participating too.) Walk away, get off the phone or don’t respond to the text. After a while people will get the hint and not bring nonsense to you.
Scripture: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Real friends are honest. I tell my daughter all the time that a real friend is not going to let you go out of the house looking crazy or let you walk around with a booger in your nose. If you’re wrong, she’s going to tell you that you’re wrong. Honesty really is the best policy. That being said, there’s a way to say everything. Pray before you speak.
Scripture: Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Psalm 27:5–6)
- Real friends support each other—in good and bad times. My little brother used to tell me all the time, that if I was going through something, then we were going to go through it together. A real friend is going to celebrate when you get a promotion, get married or buy a new house, and she is going to be right there crying with you and helping you through if you lose your job, your house or your man.
Scripture: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
- Real friends love each other unconditionally. Everyone has their quirks, but a real friend is going to love you quirks and all.
Scripture: Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Peter 4:8–10)
- Real friends have each other’s back. You need a ride to the store or for someone to watch your kids last minute? A real friend is going to do everything possible to help you. Does that mean she will always be available? No, but she will do everything in her power to accommodate your requests. If you need to cry, she may not know what to say, but she will be there holding your hand and helping you through.
Scripture: 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)
- Real friends encourage each other. Every now and then you may need to have a pity party, but after a while, a real friend is not going to let you stay in that place. She is going to offer a word of encouragement and a measure of hope that things are going to get better. She will pray for you when you can’t pray for yourself.
Scripture: And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
- Real friends make each other better. You don’t need anyone in your life who is bringing you down. A real friend is going to challenge you to be the best you can be. She’ll encourage you to go back to school, pursue your dreams, and push you to move beyond your comfort zone. She may not always understand your dreams, but she isn’t going to laugh at them or let her own insecurities or fears keep her from rooting for you.
Scripture: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)