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Building Blocks for Deep Friendship
The passages below are taken from Charles Stanley’s book, “Walking Wisely,” published in 2002.
Deep, constant, godly friendships don’t just “happen.” They are built. There are eight essential building blocks required.
You must be willing to spend time with your friends. I must admit, I probably have lost some friends through the years because I have said, “I don’t have time,” when they invited me to go places or share experiences with them. The more honest truth is I didn’t choose to make the time. We all tend to make time for the things we want to do. We must also make time for the relationships we desire to have.
When we don’t have time for our friends, we likely aren’t valuing our friends as we should. We also must be aware that we have only so much time in life, and we likely have only the necessary time for a handful of genuine deep friendships. That does not mean we can’t have more casual friendships---but for a truly deep friendship to develop, time together is a vital ingredient.
A second building block to a good relationship is talk.
Conversation is the way you discover more about a person—-it is a window through which to peer into another person’s heart, mind, soul, and spirit. The more you converse with a person and see inside that person, the more you know about the person. And the more you know about a person, the more you love him or her--or perhaps, the more you realize that your friendship is likely to be short-lived.
Through the years I’ve heard countless wives say about their husbands, “I just wish he’d talk to me.” The fact is—--these wives wanted to know their husbands better. They wanted to know what their husbands were thinking and feeling. When a man doesn’t talk to his wife, he puts up a barrier to her understanding him. Husband . . . take time to talk to your wife. You may not feel a need to talk, but she needs to hear you talk!
When you are with a friend, the topic of your conversation doesn’t really matter. I meet regularly on Saturday mornings to have breakfast with three of my buddies. We go to the same restaurant every Saturday—--in fact, the restaurant personnel are so accustomed to our coming that they set aside a certain table just for us.
These three men are in professions different from mine, but we have many common interests. What do we discuss? Anything and everything. We talk about whatever pops into our minds. Our conversation is free-flowing, easy, and natural—--no subject is off-limits, no topic is too trivial or too big. We are open with
one another. We are friends,
3. SHARED TEARS AND LAUGHTER
Genuine friends cry together and laugh together. If a person is a genuine friend, you should have no hesitation whatsoever in going to that person when you are hurt, rejected, or disappointed . . . or when you have a triumphant moment!
Those who stuff all of their emotions—--both sorrow and joy—--do damage to their own physical health. We all need the “release” of tears and laughter in order to vent our emotions.
4. EXPRESSED THANKFULNESS
A friend voices thanksgiving for his or her friends. Not too long ago, one of my friends showed up just when I needed someone to talk to about a situation I was facing. I said to him, “You have an uncanny way of showing up just when I need a listening ear and feel the need to pour out my heart. I’m thankful for you in my life. I’m thankful for the direction and wise counsel you give me!” And I am.
I have a photographer friend who calls me about once a week. I’m never quite sure where he’ll be when he calls—--one of his recent calls was from Paris. I can always count on his saying two things to me at some point in the call: “I’m grateful to God for our friendship” and “I love you, brother.” To have a friend who will openly and frequently make those two statements is a wonderful thing! If you haven’t told a friend lately that you are grateful to God for his presence in your life . . . or if you haven’t said, “I love you,” to a friend. . . I encourage you to do so.
5. THOUGHTFUL GESTURES
Sometimes the best way to show your appreciation for a friend is to do something for your friend or give something to your friend. The deed or item need not be grandiose or extravagant—--rather, something that conveys the message, “I’m thinking of you. I listen to you. I know what you like—--yes, even what you need.” A friend takes joy in giving something that he knows his friend desires.
One of my friends is a tremendous giver. He is always sending me something that he thinks I’ll enjoy—--since he travels a lot and we have a number of common interests, his gifts are always meaningful to me and sometimes rather unusual. As much as I have protested about his gifts to me, he continues to send them. One day he said to me, “I’m just a giver. It’s what I do. You can’t ever out give me, so don’t even try. I get a lot of joy out of giving. Don’t rob me of that joy by telling me not to give.”
Husband, does your wife like flowers? Surprise her with a bundle of flowers now and then. Giving her something that you know she likes is a way of saying, “I’m glad you’re in my life.” Similarly, wife, give your husband something every now and then that is a special surprise, which says, “I am glad you’re with me.”
A woman told me recently what a friend had done for her. This woman had received word that a family of five was on its way to spend a week at her home while they enrolled their daughter in a nearby college. She had shared news of their impending visit with her friend. The next day, that friend showed up with a large casserole and the comment, “I made extra. I thought you might be able to use this.” This woman said, “Now that’s a friend! She knew exactly what would bless me most on that particular day.”
Friends tolerate the occasional bad mood, the hurtful comment said in haste, or the bad attitude that’s the result of being too tired or too stressed out.
Sometimes tolerance means putting up with an annoying habit. Sometimes it means cutting that person some slack when he’s fifteen minutes late . . . again. Not long ago, I sat and listened to a friend of mine tell a story I’ve heard so many times I could tell it in detail myself. This man knew I’d heard the story. Everybody else at the table had heard it. But we all listened as if we were listening for the first time. He’s our friend.
There’s power in appropriate touching between friends. A genuine friend should be someone you feel you can hug, someone you can pat on the back.
A while back, I was eating alone in a restaurant, and I noticed that a certain man in the restaurant was giving his waitress a very hard time about something. Rather than respond in a negative manner, she reached out and touched him lightly on the shoulder and said, “I’m sorry . . .“ She didn’t have to say anything more. The instant she touched him, he melted—--his countenance changed and so did the tone of his voice.
Most people are hungry to be touched—--it’s a sign to them of care, empathy, concern, appreciation, and value. If a person comes to me after a church service and tells me that he’s heart broken--—perhaps his wife has abandoned their family, he has been left alone with their children, and he doesn’t know where to turn or what to do—--this man doesn’t want me to keep my distance and say coldly, “Well, I know God will help you.” No. He wants a pastor who will reach out and hug him or put his arm around him and look him in the eye and say, “I hurt for you. I’m going to pray for you and believe for God’s best in your life. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you.”
I am certainly not advocating that you hug every person in sight, or that you be overly affectionate with casual acquaintances. You must be sensitive to what another person needs and desires—--you should touch another person only in a way you know is comfortable for that person. A friend, however, should be someone that you don’t think twice about touching when you desire to express pure, nonsexual affection, comfort, or appreciation.
Transparency means not holding deceitful motives, hiding your feelings, or harboring a secret agenda in your dealings with another person. If you are going to develop a genuine friendship with another person, you are going to have to let that person see the real you.
THE SUM IS LOVE
All of these building blocks add up to one simple four-letter word: love. A person you love is a person you spend time with, talk to, cry with and laugh with, are thankful for, do thoughtful things for, tolerate without complaining, touch with affection, are transparent with, speak the truth to, and trust.
The cardinal principle for having a deep, close, godly friend
is to be such a friend.(176-182)
What Damage the Relationship?
The foremost way to damage any relationship is simply to undo or tear down one or more of the building blocks identified above. Relationships are impaired or harmed when:
• You stop spending time together.
• You stop talking to each other.
• You become reluctant to share your sorrows and your joys—--you stop crying together and laughing together.
• You no longer express your thanks or do thoughtful things for each other.
• You become increasingly critical of each other—--less and less tolerant of each other’s errors, less appreciative of each other’s efforts, less accepting of each other’s weaknesses.
• You stop touching each other with warmth and tender affection.
• You build a wall and no longer share your life freely with each other—--one or both of you hold things back and conceal your motives, feelings, and thoughts.
• One or both of you lie to each other—--not only about what you are doing, but what you are thinking and feeling with regard to your relationship.
• You stop trusting each other. (192-193)
(The 8 T of being a good friend: I must make the TIME to TALK to each other and to be THANKFUL that we share our joy and TEARS with one another. I must be THOUGHTFUL to him and be TOLERANT of his occasional bad mood and be TRANSPARENT in my dealings with him. Above all, we must not be afraid to TOUCH each other, emotionally, mentally and physically but not sensually.)
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