Question: How Does a Person Come to be a Friend?

question_mark_778895.gif.jpgRight now I am thinking about "friendship."  That word alone can mean so many different things.  Some friends are closer than others.  Sometimes friendships will vary with intensity and closeness.  

I have known some people who seem to regularly invest in their relationship with others.  I have known others who are almost totally passive in their friendships.  (The other person must be the one to initiate, to call, to invite to lunch, etc.) 

Sometimes couples will have a season of life where they are particularly close to a few other couples.  Then, their friends move and for the next few decades, they struggle to experience the same kind of relationships. 

I believe that to some degree, every human being needs relationships.  Scripture affirms over and over that we were made for relationship and for life in community in some form.  But how does a person come to be a friend to another person?

Now you may wonder why I would post this today.  Maybe it is because so many people are starved for intimacy on some level.  It is interesting that we are a culture that reveals most everything about ourselves on the Internet.  Person after person will reveal the most intimate and personal details about themselves on Face-book or My Space.  Yet, even though we reveal so much, so many of us seem to be starved for real relationships.  How does a person become someone who knows another and is really known by another?  

This morning I have been thinking about a variety of people:

  • The salesperson
  • The office worker
  • The university student
  • The stay-at-home mom
  • The Fed-Ex delivery person
  • The minister
  • The school teacher
  • The university professor
  • The medical technician

The list could go on and on.  Each one of us needs a friend or friends.

Questions:  How does a person come to be a friend?  What, in your experience, is important if one wishes to experience a good and rich friendship with another person?

Why do some people seem to have great difficulty finding a friend(s)?  What kind of behaviors might get in the way of experiencing a healthy friendship with someone else?  

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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18 thoughts on “Question: How Does a Person Come to be a Friend?

  1. Jim
    I blogged about friendship this week also.  It seems to me that one of the biggest factors in developing friendships is the willingness to be known.  When I think about people who I have struggled to form relationships with it is usually because after a given amount of time I still no very little about who they are or because what I am seeing is not really who they are.  And I know for myself, the times when I have struggled to be a friend is when I am operating behind a facade, a mask or a wall of some kind.
    Friendships take time, investment, willingness to sacrifice — but the joys in return are so huge.

  2. Mostly when we have things in common.  Also a true friend is someone you feel honored to be friends with.    

  3. Friends BECOME Friends because of: proximity, similarity, interests…Friends ARE Friends because of: love, concern, need, safety, openness, trust…By HIS Grace!mh

  4. Good questions!  For me, a friendship requires transparency, openness, and an ability to remain nonjudgmental.  And there must be a willingness to extend yourself for another person, a certain amount of unselfishness, as well as the ability to articulate your feelings.  A lack of any of these qualities would get in the way of being able to form friendships with others.  Some people have trouble forming friendships because they lack these qualities, or, perhaps because they are extreme introverts trying to live within a largely extroverted world!
    I have found as I’ve moved through life that some I have considered friends have not been able or willing to move with me through some difficult life events.  This has been painful for me, but I have come to realize that this has more to do with them than it does to do with me.  And it doesn’t mean they are bad people, but just that they don’t understand.  Another painful thing I have come to realize about friendship is that some people mean more to me than I do to them.  This is no one’s fault, it is just how it is.
    When you think of all the difficulties and things that can get in the way of friendship, it’s pretty amazing that we have friends at all, isn’t it?  Though I have been through times when I felt completely bereft of friends, the reality is that I have a few friends who have remained faithful through everything, and I feel supremely blessed. 

  5. I think there’s a point in any potential friendship when someone has to say, "Hey, let’s be friends."  Seems like kids do this explicitly and adults do it implicitly, especially men.  I think that for men, it feels risky to invite yourself into someone else’s life, or to stand there waiting for the invitation.  I don’t usually want to be seen as needing anything; I don’t want to risk being turned down.

  6. One of my relatives experienced a very painful, lonely childhood. I think because of that, he perceived that everyone he met was either a threat or a disapointment to him.
    In the years I’ve known him, he hasn’t had a single friend. He isn’t interested in having any, either, and appears to see this as a badge of honor and strength.
     He expects the worst out of every person he meets. He’s sure they’re out to rip him off or try to hurt him in some way, and he is NOT going to let them get away with it.  I care about this person, but have learned over time that I must do so from afar.
    Our defenses – our old, unhealed wounds – can keep new relationships out of our lives. And those relationships contain the seeds of friendships.   

  7. One of my favorite quotes on friendship came from a book by Dan Allender, called "The Healing Path."  He told the story of a friendship gone awry, due to misunderstanding. One Sunday after church, Allender made an attempt to reconcile with this friend, to no avail. He wrote, "I watched a friendship drive away."  This morning, a very dear friend literally drove away, down the Alaska-Canada highway, moving to the Lower 48. It saddens me, yet strangely comforts me, that friendship does come and go with the seasons of life.

  8. I relate to Connie’s statement, that introverts find it more difficult to make friends.  While more extraverted colleagues and aquaintances easily make small talk and ask questions, introverts are usually quite content to sit in silence.  We just don’t have much to say, or want to process everything before we do.  Others see this as an independent spirit and believe that we’re okay being all alone.  Truth is, while we don’t mind being alone (and actually NEED a lot of time to be alone just to stay sane), we also desire deep relationships.
    I’ve been fortunate enough to have some good friends not only understand but embrace these two very different needs… how to be an introvert in community.  It can be a tough balance.

  9. Of one college friend, my mom commented, "I think she needed you more than you needed her."  I still spent time with her and enjoyed our times together, but it was different than other friendships.
    I’ve lived in this new town and gone to this new church for 4 years, and consider myself to have many acquantainces and 1 new friend.  Even so, I cannot crowd in on her current friendships that are deeper than our new friendship.  We mostly say hi and hug at church and e-mail during the week.  This friendship too will grow in time.
    God knows what I need and He will send my way exactly what He desires for my life.
    "Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away."  – quote by writer, George Elliot

  10. I was thinking about that idea that friends become friends because of proximity. And it seemed to me that perhaps this needn’t be geographical proximity as much as mental and emotional proximity. There’s often also an element of attraction to the Other’s talents or beauties; some people give us a window to the Divine, and we just can’t help but stand at the sill and gape and sigh. Indeed, this question about how a friend becomes a friend has always fascinated me. 

  11. Great question.
    We have to be real, we have to really love people, we have to listen to them and seek to enjoy them for who they are. We need to share of ourselves, be vulnerable with wisdom. It takes commitment and grace and forgiveness and more of the same, on and on.
    But I think the key is to really love people.

  12. Arlene–I really like the point you made regarding the willingness to be known.  This is so important and it probably says something if, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, either we or they are still unwilling to reveal much about the self.  (I will be sure to read your recent post on friendship.)Matthew–Thank you.  I have felt that same sense of "honor" especially when I come to know more about this person’s character and integrity.Mark– You said much in a couple of sentences.  Good points.  Thanks so much.Connie– I like the phrase you used, "…there must be the willingness to extend yourself for another person." I think this is so important both in giving and in receiving friendship.  I remember watching a good friend a number of years ago, extend himself to several friends.  I recall that at some moment it was like a light had been turned on as I realized how important these friends were to him.  I have also learned to appreciate moments where I sense that a friend is extending himself toward me in some way that reflects that our friendship is valuable to him. 

  13. Frank–You articulate well some of the fears that probably most of us have experienced regarding friendship.  Thanks for expressing what some vary real and familiar concerns.  I appreciate your honesty. Michelle— In particular, I liked this line in your comment:  Our defenses – our old, unhealed wounds – can keep new relationships out of our lives.This is so true.  Like your relative, many people have been deeply hurt early in life and then live out of that wound for decades.glorybeam— I like that line: "I saw friendship drive away."  I suspect that many of us can relate to that experience.Kari– I don’t think I have really thought about the challenge quite as clearly as you have expressed it.  "How to be an introvert in community."  That really is a challenge and I suspect probably greater for some introverts than for others.  Anyway, thanks for expressing this so well. Jonell– I like what you said about realizing that you can’t crowd in on your friends other relationships realizing that they are probably deeper due to amount of time that has transpired with these other relationships.  There is a maturity in that statement that is refreshing.Thanks for the George Elliot quote.  I saw this sometime, somewhere but had long forgotten about it.  I am going to clip this.  Thanks. 

  14. L.L.– I think you make such an important point about proximity.  "Mental and emotional proximity" is so important and may speak to how many of us have friends who live nowhere near us but are a significant part of our lives and remain very close friends.Greg— Congratulations!Ted— You describe so well what it means to love another person.  Thanks. 

  15. Boy! What a loaded question and subject! Real true friendship is rare and a gift from God. He gives us those divine connections and in giving us those persons we need to do the work of taking time….time….and more time to give and take through the thick and thin of this life. Our life experiences seem to weed out those who are not willing to stick with us. There is a mix of grace, forgiveness, mercy unselfishness etc. that grows deeper with time. It’s a wonderful thing and such a comfort to grow older with a person who has been seasoned with lifes tests. Friendship is an art and truely a gift form God.

  16. Jim
    Have you read The Shack?  There is a portion in there that talks about the difference between expectancy and expectation in friendship.  When we begin introducing expectations into our friendships and start forming lists and laws we lose something.  It is an interesting idea and one that really resonates with me in light of our relationship with God.
    Expectancy conjures up something so alive, dynamic and positive but expectations often lead us down a road to bitterness.

  17. Arlene,I have not read it though it is on my bookshelf waiting for me.  I appreciate your bringing in the difference between expectancy and expectations.  I need to read this book.