Friday, 6 March 2015

Friendship {Part 2 - How to make, and keep, friends}

Having established the definition of a friend, in the first part to of this series, I was pondering about where to go with this next. There is just so much, but the natural place to start is, well, the start!

How do you make friends, in order to BE a good friend?

Well, I can tell you, I have heard, so MANY times, from people, how they struggle to have friendships.  They "don't have close friends", or "they can't make friends with people".

The Bible has a solid answer for that, and it's where every good friendship must begin, and where it must continue.

"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24  

If you want friends, you need to put the effort in, first of all, to be FRIENDLY!  It might seem obvious, but it's the main issue with most people who lack true, and close, friends. 

There are many ways you can be UN-friendly, of course. 

If you are prickly, and grumpy, you'll not make friends easily. Plus, the ones you DO make, will more than likely be just as prickly and grumpy as you, and that will end in disaster! You'll either spend the whole time being miserable together, or making trouble by being miserable towards others! Neither is a good combo.  Check your heart and attitudes, and make sure that you re a gentle and sweet person, who others will WANT to befriend!  It may not even be these particular struggles, but there re many things that will put people off making friendships. Have a "good health check" - the spiritual kind - and make sure you are behaving in a Christ-honouring way, in your words and actions, to make sure you are "good friend material"!

How about if you are shy? This is a hard one, as some people, either naturally, or through circumstances which have hurt them, are just plain shy. However, like any part of our nature, we can't always "blame" it for our situation in life.  God has enabled us, by His grace, strength, and power, to do "all things". That includes getting over shyness, and speaking to others. It's not easy, but it's possible.  Pray, and ask God to give you the courage to speak to others, even if it's just a few, gentle and genuine, words, and show yourself friendly.  It's the first step you need to take.  I must say, it's why the Internet is both a blessing, and a curse.  Shy people CAN more easily make connections with others, or have more boldness in what they say, on the Internet.  Where they may not have easily made friends in person, they can build friendships online.  However, it can also become a hiding place - an easy place to prevent having to face ACTUAL people! Folks can become too cosy in the easy life of Internet friendships, which subsequently makes it harder, and less appealing, to put the effort into real life friendships.  Really, there is NOTHING that can replace a true friendship in real life.  People who you can connect with, speak to in person, and share things with over cake and coffee (or tea and biscuits - whatever you preference is!), are just the BEST! God has blessed us with the ability to make and have friends.  Don't let your shyness prevent you from experiencing the blessing it can be.

What about if you lack confidence? You can chat fine, but going outside your comfort zone into new things is something you struggle with.  "Normal life" suits you better than pushing boundaries.  Believe it or not, this is ME! Some of you may be utterly amazed, as I am well able to talk to people.  I do find it incredibly easy, however, to stick with the status quo, and not get out and meet new people.  I have some VERY good friends already (I'll get to that in later posts), but it doesn't mean I can't meet new people, and make new friends.  Friends are who God has given us to support, encourage and advise us, as I will explain in later posts. It's good to be surrounded by GOOD friends, who will be al of that to us.  Pray,  and ask God for the opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone, and connect with those who will build you up spiritually, and encourage you practically.

If you have a busy life, it can also be hard to "show yourself friendly".  Children.  Family. School.  Work.  Church.  All these things, and more, can make it hard to actually fit in the TIME to make new friends.  However, I do think it's an important thing to plan into your time.  If you never have a connection with others, in a real, tangible way, you can end up burning out.  Making that time is a break for our bodies, our minds, and our souls.  It's a time of refreshing.  It doesn't even need to be long.  It can be once  month, for an hour or so.  Just taking a little time, to engage with others, is a good thing to do. 

Health struggles can be  barrier to making friendships, as can having children.  Maybe you make connections on the Internet because the practicalities of meeting up with others are just hard to co-ordinate?  How about opening up your home for others to come to YOU!? I can't think of a friendlier way of reaching out, than to show hospitality like that! Work WITH your restrictions, instead of allowing them to work AGAINST you! 

Don't let "things" stop you from being friendly.

What about the friends you already have?  It's also important to put the effort in to be friendly towards them.  Making time for them.  Chatting to them, whether it's on the phone, by letter, email, or Skype, Whataspp and Facetime (hey, things have moved on!)  Connecting.  That's what showing yourself friendly is all about. Not losing touch, but making sure YOU are being a friendly friend!  People can get very saddened and discouraged, if someone they consider as a friend NEVER makes the effort to keep in touch. Yes, life can be busy, but the odd short message, or a few lines in a letter, are all it takes.  I know that lack of contact doesn't mean your friendship is gone - friendships can change, and through circumstances the contact is less.  I have friends I never see any more, and speak to less than I'd like, but we can pick up the friendship like we left off the last time.  ONLY because we built the friendship when we WERE together, though.  Strong friendships have to be built, before you can allow long "silent" periods.  That said, I KNOW I need to make more effort to keep in touch with some of long-time friends.  I consider myself rebuked! 

Then, just as importantly, how do you SHOW yourself as friendly?

I will look at them briefly, then look at them more deeply in posts of their own.

What you say.

Make sure that you say things that engage with others.  Just being a question answerer, and never the asker, isn't very friendly, really.  More importantly, make sure you show you are interested in others - ask them about themselves - who they are, what they do, what they love.  Engage, and put in the effort to really get to know others.  On the flip side, don't talk too much - or, at least, don't dominate the conversation.  Ashamedly, this can be me.  I can talk.  BOY, I can talk.  One of my closest friends and I were chatting, a year or so into our friendship. We were talking about how our friendship had developed, and she mentioned about the first time I visited her - she had hardly talked.  "Funny", says I, "I am sure you did".  


Apparently she didn't say much at all.  I did most of the talking.  I felt SO bad.  BUT, she was thankful for it.  She is quite shy when she first meets people, and it meant she didn't have to say so much.  Really, she REALLY didn't. Oops.  However, I am glad to say, she now can talk quite readily and freely, and that initial shyness has WELL gone.  

All that said, I still need to be careful not to talk too much, and to make sure I LISTEN, too.  It shows you care about the person you are talking to, if you listen, and take in what they are saying.  You are well on the road to building a friendship, if you can be careful about what you say.  

On a side note, I AM very glad I can chat easily.  It's a great blessing to be able to make conversation without too much trouble.  It's just a case of me having self  control! 

How you say it.

If you want to have friends, you also need to be careful about HOW you say things.  This applies to all of life, of course, but is important if you want to make friends at all! If we are unfriendly in our manner, it will put people off even trying to get to know us.  We need to be warm, gentle and, well, FRIENDLY!  A smiling face.  A positive outlook.  Encouraging attitude.  All these things count towards being a friendly friend.

What you do.

The saying goes "actions speak louder than words".  Friendship is no exception.  "Doing" doesn't mean "spending". It can, of course, include buying things for a friend.  Knowing someone well enough to be able to get little things for them, can be a great blessing, and a true mark of friendship.  The best friends I have had, over the years, have got me little things, out of the blue, that have brought tears to my eyes.  It really showed the measure of our friendship, and the kindness in their hearts.  SHOWING themselves friendly.   Of course, it doesn't have to be things you buy.  It can be the willingness to lend things out or give things away.  A generous spirit.  It can also be your time. Willing to give up your time to be with friends, just to plain spend time with them, or to demonstrate another "doing" - help.  I can honestly say that the things my friends have done to HELP me, when I have really, really needed it, are the things that have marked the best friends. Not even big things.  Just the little things matter. I've had toilets cleaned, cupboards wiped out, ironing done, rooms tidied, beds stripped, laundry folded.  All these things SHOW my friends FRIENDLY! They often put me to shame, the way they so willingly do things for me.  Above all else, make sure you are equally a giver as a receiver.  Again, I speak to my own heart first.  Get to know your friends, and find out even the little things that will show YOU as a friendly friend. 

Do you see the end of the verse?  A friendly friend can become someone closer than family.  Think no further than our Ultimate Friend. Jesus, Himself. No closer than that can you get - Jesus, friend of sinners. We, too, can have a special bond with true friends - if you are a friendly friend, you will be one who sticks closer than a brother. 

Don't be someone who doesn't have friends, simply because you aren't actually FRIENDLY!  Above all else, make sure you don't lose friends by the same route. 

Go on - show yourself friendly.

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