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How to be a good friend

  • 1999 7 Jul
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How to be a good friend
Good friends can be hard to find. Acquaintances, associates, partners, and colleagues are found in abundance. But a true friend is scarce, and to be treasured. If friendships are to become good and lasting, both friends need to work at being good friends.

What makes a good friend (GF)?

  • A GF makes time. Most friendships fail because of neglect. Making time means getting off work early to accompany a friend to an anxiety-provoking doctor's appointment, or canceling another commitment to attend a friend's acting debut at an amateur playhouse. A friend will make time for the other's significant life events, moments of crisis, and - equally meaningful - in the midst of the mundane.

  • A GF keeps a secret. Sharing your secrets helps you explore what's troubling you and get reaction to what you've been holding in your heart. You need to tell your secrets to people who are trustworthy, consider it a privilege to hear what's on your mind, and leave it at that.

  • A GF cares deeply. Without care friendship is impossible. Caring involves both your heart and your head. Care says that whatever happens to you happens to me. When you are sad, I am sad. When something terrific happens to you, I rejoice myself.

  • A GF provides space. Overly engaged and emotionally needy friends, who don't know the meaning of giving another space, smother you with their very presence. Their constant companionship becomes oppressive - and possessive.

  • A GF speaks the truth. Honesty is a prerequisite to a friendship. There must be a willingness to speak the truth, and a willingness to hear the truth. Friends who do not care enough to confront may save themselves a little awkwardness in the present but will end up losing their friendships in the future.

  • A GF forgives faults. Every friend you have will eventually disappoint you. You can count on it. They are ordinary people. That's why a lasting friendship depends on forgiveness. Some slights need only be overlooked and forgotten; others need profound forgiveness. The friendship may not continue unless there is also reconciliation, which requires that your friend own up to the truth of the fault and see the pain it caused.

  • A GF remains faithful. They don't desert you, even when you are in trouble, or when it costs them something to remain your friend.

  • A GF laughs easily. Laughter is the fuel that keeps good friendships going once they are born. It's what enables friends to help each other cope in the midst of crisis and monotony.

  • A GF celebrates success. A defining trait of a good friend is the ability to stick with you in the bad times. But sometimes the true test of a friend's staying power is in his or her ability to be supportive when things are going well. A good friend will spread the good news and be happy for your achievements.

  • A GF says a prayer. Prayer catapults friendship into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit. It involves God in the relationship, and makes all these traits do-able.

From A Good Friend by Les and Leslie Parrott, (c) 1998. Used by permission of Vine Books, an imprint of Servant Publications, P.O. Box 8617, Ann Arbor, MI 48107, 1-800-458-8505.

Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott are co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University (SPU). Les is a professor of clinical psychology at SPU, and Leslie is a marriage and family therapist there. They are authors of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, Becoming Soul Mates, and The Marriage Mentor Manual.