Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Sarah Zacharias Davis's book, The Friends We Keep: A Woman's Quest for the Soul of Friendship, (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 2009). 

Friendship is a gift all women need, during every stage of their lives.  Friends who share life's experiences -- from the joys to the sorrows - help each other live the abundant life God wants for them.  But friendships can often be challenging to navigate.  Friends can bless each other, but they can wound each other, too. 

The good news is that you can enjoy strong friendships if you're intentional about being the kind of friend you want others to be for you.  Here's how you can be a good friend:

Avoid competition.  Your friendships should be places of safe refuge, which they can't be if they're tainted by competitive attitudes between you and your friends.  Competing with each other (about who has the best body or home, who wins the best man or job, etc.) leads to fear that will make it difficult for you all to freely share ideas, successes, or disappointments with each other.  Lurking behind the desire to compete with other women is often a need to feel valuable.  Pray for God to give you the confidence you need to derive your sense of worth from Him alone.  Remind yourself that you're valuable because God made you in His image and deeply loves you.

Avoid gossip.  Resist the temptation to gossip about any other women to your friends, or to gossip about your friends to others.  Ask God to give you the strength to keep personal information private and the courage to speak out against gossip when others are engaging in it.  Do all you can to protect other women's reputations and build bonds of trust with your friends.

Confront wisely.  When one of your friends is in trouble, try to respond wisely, without resorting to the unhealthy extremes of either doing too much (such as giving unsolicited advice or too much criticism) or too little (refraining from getting involved at all).  Pray about the destructive decisions you observe your friend making, and ask God to guide you to confront your friend in just the right way.  Keep in mind that when Jesus spoke with people who were making destructive choices, He simply asked them questions that would bring truths buried deep in their souls to the forefront of their minds.  Consider asking your friend specific questions designed to remind her of what she already knows is true and to motivate her to act on that truth.

Forgive.  You must forgive friends who have hurt or offended you for your relationships with them - and with God - to be healthy.  God calls you to forgive others because He has forgiven you.  You can count on Him to help you through the forgiveness process every step of the way.  Choosing to forgive is the only way that you can love your friends as God wants you to love them.

Maintain friendships through different stages of life.  Some friends will be with you for a lifetime after you meet; others will be in your life just for a certain period of time.  But remember that you need friends during every stage of life.  When changing circumstances (such as getting married, having a baby, or moving) threaten some of your friendships, pray for the wisdom to know whether you should let some of relationships go or hold onto them.  Renew the friendships you choose to keep so they can adjust to the new circumstances in your life.  Add new friends to your old ones, as well.

Celebrate best friends.  If you have a friend whom you're closer to than all others, keep investing time and energy into that relationship.  Thank God for her, and celebrate the fact that you have a best friend to enjoy.