We use the word "friends" to describe anyone we hang out or associate with, but friendship is more than just knowing who someone is or a number on Facebook. What is true friendship?
As the saying goes, "in order to have friends, you have to be a friend." The first step to having a friend is to demonstrate true friendship yourself. If you want someone to be understanding of you, you must be understanding of them and listen to what they say; connecting beyond just casual conversation and diving deeper into a heart connection. To understand someone, you first must listen to them, truly hearing and grasping every word they are saying, without interruption or thinking about what you want to say. To be a true friend, you must put the other person's needs in front of your own. We only understand another person by completely listening to them, and then relating to them. Relating deals with a kindred spirit. To relate to someone else, you must hear their unspoken words. To do this you must observe them and spend time with them, getting to know them beyond just the surface. Building that heart to heart relationship, which is a rare treasure to have. Finally, find things in common, but don't dwell on those similarities, also accept and love the good differences between each person, for we all have different talents and skills. "A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities." (William Arthur Ward).
2. Supporting & Encouraging
Selfishness has no place in having a relationship with others, it is a one-man/woman show and will only result in loneliness and sin. Put away selfish behaviors and desires, and practices selflessness. As stated in the first step, if you want to be supported then you need to support others. You can support others through several different methods:
Spiritually - pray for others more than yourself, pray with them, send them Bible verses that relate to what they are going through, lift their spirits by speaking words of wisdom, love, and truth, etc.
Physically - participate in an event they support (if it is acceptable to God), bring them food when they are sick, visit them when they are unwell, give them a hug when they are sad, hang out and just talk or do something fun, share their cause or talent with others who can also support them, introduce them to others who have the same interest, etc.
Financially - donate to a cause they support (if it is acceptable to God), or if you know they are going through a difficult financial situation and you are financially able, help them out.
Everyone needs encouragement, even if you think someone is a happy person who is never sad or let's discouragement overtake them, they still need encouragement. As Robin Williams once said, "I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it's like to feel absolutely worthless and they don't want anybody else to feel like that". The same points for supporting go for encouraging. Truly be there for others! "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:3-4).
3. Loving & Sincere
Be honest, lies have no place in any relationship and are straight from Satan. Don't compliment if you don't truly mean it and don't make promises you can't keep. A kind word goes a long way and heals wounds if it is sincere. Love others, demonstrate love and do things out of love for the other person. Have a kind, honest heart and if you struggle then pray to God asking Him to help you and to soften your heart, to love and care for others, and to remove any callouses. "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2).
True friendship is also instructive. If someone is not right say so, in love. Correct when needed, and hold each other accountable. Forgive, seek forgiveness, and through difficulties the friendship and bond will grow stronger and lovelier. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17).
True friendship goes beyond the earthly boundaries. It lasts forever and will demonstrate a spiritual connection. Time and distance should not matter if the friendship is true. There is a connection in the soul that does not part in this life but is strengthened and fulfilled in heaven. "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:3-6).
Are you being a true friend? Do you have true friends in your life? First, demonstrate true friendship and be a true friend. Are you listening to others or interrupting them? Are you supporting others and their passions/missions or are you only seeking support from others? Are you encouraging others or only asking others for prayer and encouragement? Are you loving others biblically or only being selfish and unloving? Are you being honest and sincere with your words and actions or only saying lies and doing things to get attention from others? Are you being instructive and correcting sin/errors or are you allowing sin to be in your life, other's lives, and letting them continue to go down the wrong path? Are you only out for yourself or are you out to build others up and have a spiritual connection that will last all eternity? Check your heart, words, and actions, and make sure you are a true friend. This world has enough fake people, falsehood, and evil, we need truth, sincerity, and godliness. When you live for God and demonstrate truth and godliness, the world will be against you, and true friends will be few. Therefore, pray for God to help you be a true friend to others and to bring you true friends in your life, surrounding you with good people and protecting you from evil. Be a true friend, receive guidance from God's Word, and remember, Jesus Christ is always with you and He is the Truest Friend you will ever need and have.