A retired athlete told me how he learned about friendship the hard way. When he got his professional contract, a lot of people wanted to spend time with him. When his career was over and the money was gone, so were they.
That’s how he learned to recognize the difference between those who use us and those who befriend us.
How do we know when someone is a true friend?
Any significant relationship involves friendship. On the flip side, if there isn’t real friendship, the relationship will become manipulative and destructive in some ways.
One characteristic of friendship is that you can relax and be yourself around the other person. You don’t need to try to impress them — they‘re already impressed.
Friends don’t try to direct our lives. Instead, they offer to walk with us down the paths we choose. They invite us to walk their paths with them, too, holding hands as we go.
Friends appreciate who we are and encourage us to be ourselves.
Often, friends see qualities in us that we don’t even recognize. They remind us of our great worth. They gently challenge us to grow and become less selfish, more loving.
Friendships come in all configurations.
Some friends are small parts of our life — we might talk a couple times a year. Others become so important that we feel something’s missing if we aren’t in touch regularly.
Some friendships involve managing our daily lives. We often describe those friends as someone who will do anything for you.
And there are other friendships that transcend that level. Those friends don’t want just to do things for us, they want to experience life with us. They become part of us. Their love shapes us. In some ways, they’re with us always.
In the tough times, they hold our hand and open their heart, willingly sharing our pain. They don’t tell us to look on the bright side and feel better; they submerge themselves in our feelings so they can be with us. They share our joy and multiply it many times over. And we do the same with them.
When friends see us, they smile. And we can’t help but smile back.
Friends get frustrated with us, but they never stay that way for long. They’ve decided that we’re well worth the occasional frustration.
When we do something stupid, friends are there to extend a hand and help us up. And to help us find the humor in it, too. Friends know how to laugh through tears.
We like who we are when we’re with a friend. They bring out our best qualities and make us want to become better.
Friends think of us ahead of themselves. They think of us often, and they remind us often that they’re thinking of us. They show us what it’s like to be loved nonstop for who we are.
Friends, by definition, are grace.