Adapted from How to be a Best Friend Forever: Making and Keeping Lifetime Relationships,copyright 2012 by John Townsend. Published by Worthy Publishing, Brentwood, Tn.,

Your best friends shape your life, significantly influencing your choices and the kind of person you become as a result. It’s not just a luxury to have good friendships; it’s a necessity if you’re going to fulfill your God-given potential.

So make your friendships the best they can be! It truly is possible to be a “BFF” (best friend forever) to the people with whom God calls you into friendship. Here’s how you can be a best friend forever:

Build your best friendships on the right foundation. Every healthy and close friendship should have three elements: knowing, liking, and presence. Knowing involves gaining objective information about people (the details of their lives) and building personal experience with them to understand their thoughts and feelings. Liking means that you genuinely want to spend time with them because you’re personally drawn to them. Presence involves a mutual commitment to spend time together whenever possible, even when you each have to make sacrifices in order to prioritize being together.

Be aware of what draws you to certain people. Just because you’re attracted to certain people doesn’t necessarily mean that they would make good best friends for you. If you discover that you like a particular person for unhealthy reasons, becoming best friends with that person will lead to an unhealthy, unbalanced relationship. Pray for the wisdom to know which people are good for you, and which ones aren’t.

Enjoy more than one best friend. The word “best” in the friendship context doesn’t have to mean that one person has to be your top friend above all others; it can mean that you have the best possible friendships with several people who each contribute in unique and valuable ways to your life (and you contribute to theirs). Ask God to help you discern a few different people in your life with whom He would like you to pursue best friendships. If you’re married, make sure that your spouse isn’t your only best friend, because that puts too much pressure on your spouse and starves your marriage of the enrichment that friends can provide.

Look for friends with the same core values and learn from differences in context values. You and your best friends should share the same core values (the beliefs that guide all parts of your lives) in order to enjoy healthy friendships, so make sure that the people with whom you pursue best friendships agree with all of your own core values. But you and your best friends may have different context values (what you believe about how to live certain parts of your life, such as what principles you follow when parenting, managing money, or deciding how to vote in elections). Seek to humbly and respectfully learn from each other’s different context values; the process will help you and your friends grow.

Be proactive about investing into your friendships. You need to take the initiative to invest both time and energy into your friendships if you want them to reach their highest potential. If you neglect your friendships by passively waiting for your friends to contact you (which they may neglect to do), your friendships will suffer. But if you contact your friends regularly, you will enrich your friendships.

Risk being vulnerable in your friendships. When you’re vulnerable with your friends (openly and honestly sharing your needs, emotions, mistakes, and inner selves with them), you’ll add value to those friendships.