Strong friendships are one of the greatest joys of life, especially during the teenage years.
However, since the teen years can also be an awkward time, some teens become overly self-conscious and shy away from all but a small inner circle of friends. At the other extreme are those who are outgoing, friendly, nice to everyone, but who never cultivate any close relationships.
How can you learn to develop strong, healthy friendships? Believe it or not, God’s Word is full of advice on leading a high-quality social life. It has particularly deep insight concerning human relationships.
So find your Bible. Look up the scriptures and jot them down in a notebook so you will remember them better.
1. From the time of man’s creation, did God see that man needed companionship? Genesis 2:18.
People need relationships. God ordained specific relationships within the human family. But God also expects people to develop relationships outside their families. It actually helps us become better human beings—stronger in character and more like our loving God. Unlike family connections, which we cannot choose, we can choose our friends.
2. What is the principle the Bible gives in how we should treat others? Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:37-40. Does this include our enemies? Matthew 5:43-47.
Loving another as you love yourself is a huge challenge. But it is the command for our treatment of all people. If you lack solid friendships, examine yourself. How good are you at putting others’ needs ahead of, or even on the same level, as your own?
It is only natural, of course, to have some friendships that are deeper than others. Though there are levels of friendship, they all must be based on love—an unselfish, outgoing concern. Love your friends as yourself.
Proverbs 18:24 states, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly ….” The King James Version of the Bible mistranslated this portion of the verse. The Revised Standard Version reads: “There are friends who pretend to be friends ….” It takes more than just putting on a show of friendship to develop strong relationships. It takes being a person who shows others that their opinions, needs, desires matter to you—that you value their companionship. It takes a desire to love them as you love yourself. This attracts others to you.
3. Beyond loving your friend as yourself, did Christ say there was any greater love in a friendship? John 15:13.
This kind of love goes beyond the love you have for yourself. It means even being prepared to die for your friend if necessary. More commonly, it refers to putting your friend’s needs above your own. Do you have friends like that? Are you a friend like that?
Other Qualities of Good Friendships
1. What else makes friends? Proverbs 19:4; 14:20.
Superficial things will draw people to us. But these proverbs aren’t saying that to have more friends we should seek material wealth. The word for wealth in Proverbs 19:4 can mean anything from material possessions to wealth of mind or character. This Hebrew word is used in Proverbs 13:7, which states that even those with nothing physically can have “riches.”
If you are rich in character, your personality will attract others. Proverbs 19:6 states, “… every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.” Examine what your personality offers those you are friends with. The “richer” your character and the more giving your personality, the stronger those friendships will be.
2. What kind of friendships should we seek? Proverbs 27:6, 17.
Rubbing a knife against a sharpening stone makes the edge of the blade razor-sharp—by friction. This is also how iron sharpens iron. True friendship goes beyond common interests. We should seek friendships that enrich our character. Friends should have a positive influence on each other. True friendship is being able to show tough love to the other to help him or her through a problem.
Not only can your close friends enhance your moral development and character growth, they can also accept you for those things you lack.
3. What is a related quality of good friendships? Proverbs 17:17.
The Moffatt version translates it, “A friend is always a friend, he is a born brother for adversity.” Struggles and tough times reveal what friendships are made of—they even deepen relationships. They distinguish real friends from fair-weather friends. True friends will not desert you when things get rough, or when they discover a weakness in you. They will see you through the adversity and help you overcome.
These proverbs say a lot about the kind of friend you should be—not just the kind of friends you should seek. Be sure you show your friends this unconditional love—“at all times.” Be sure you demonstrate “wealthy” character around them—that your influence on them enhances their already strong character.
4. What do the Proverbs say are sure ways to ruin friendships? Proverbs 16:28; 17:9; 18:19.
Gossip separates other friendships, even our own, if we spread rumors about our friend or we share something with others told us in confidence.
If you show yourself rich in character, trustworthy, able perhaps to be blunt with your friends to their face in private—yet stick up for them around others and in the face of rumors—you will be a hot commodity on the friendship market. People will value your friendship.
We all make mistakes, though. A selfish act, an instant of stubborn pride, a hurtful comment—these can test the stability of a friendship. We should be able to apologize in such cases. And to forgive our friends when they slip up—to be a friend “at all times.”
Friendships to Avoid
1. Does the Bible ever encourage two people not to be friends? Amos 3:3. Are there specific people we are not to associate with? Proverbs 13:20.
Since we can choose our friends, God tells us to consider those choices carefully.
2. Did Paul exhort Christians to avoid close company with non-believers? 2 Corinthians 6:14, 16-17.
These verses do not contradict the “love thy neighbour as thyself” law. Hate the evil that these people get involved in—do not hate them. We can and should be friendly, help them if necessary, even pray for them (Matthew 5:43-44). But do not associate with them or seek out their companionship.
There are also some we can become acquaintances with—people who we go to school with or work with that we would not necessarily associate with outside of class or work. You can probably think of several school acquaintances you have whose lifestyles may conflict with your values or morals in certain ways—but such a conflict does not arise in a school environment.
Use caution, however. Once those acquaintances move outside those boundaries, you are in danger of being dragged down with the kind of lifestyle these people lead. You may think you can be a good influence on them. That is naive and foolish. You’re giving yourself too much credit. People who are bad influences can only pull others down. In the same way gravity works, it is much easier to go down than it is to go up.
1. Are there some friendships that will, and should, be especially close? Proverbs 18:24 (last half).
Most of us have several good friends. Maybe a few close friends, and maybe even one special, best friend. As you grow older, you will probably only be able to count your strongest, closest friendships on one hand. This is normal.
2. Did Jesus Christ, when on Earth in human form, connect more with one disciple than the others? John 13:23; 21:20.
Instead of referring to himself by name in his own writings, the Apostle John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Because Jesus was the great God in human form—the one who epitomized perfect love and friendship—His friendship with the other disciples did not suffer from the special bond He had with John. Jesus loved all men to the point of dying for every man. Still, Jesus referred to all of His disciples as His friends (John 15:14-15) and had a best-friend type relationship with John. In fact, Jesus, just before dying, asked John to take care of His mother, Mary (John 19:25-27).
3. Did King David have a special closeness with a certain friend in his life? 2 Samuel 1:26.
4. To what level did Jonathan love his best friend David? 1 Samuel 18:1, 3; 20:17.
Here is an example of outstanding love on the human level. Jonathan loved David “as his own soul.” Jonathan’s loyalty went to the point where he told David, “Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee” (1 Samuel 20:4).
This relationship even transcended politics. Jonathan, son of King Saul (who was trying to kill David at this time), was heir apparent to Israel’s throne. But Jonathan had the courage to serve his friend—knowing that God had chosen David to be king—rather than cling selfishly to his position. It was a marvelous example of loyalty, mutual respect and admiration—unselfish love and upbuilding of character in the other.
Treasure your friendships. Take time to learn who your real friends are. Choose your friends wisely. Then work at building those friendships. Examine the kind of friend you are—what you have to offer. If you do these things, your life can be enriched, your character strengthened!