Season: 2 Episode: 019
Summary: Friends are a blessing from the Lord, but they take effort and intentionality. In this episode, Shanda defines the different levels of friendship and why we must create boundaries in our relationships, including our friends. We’ll also tackle why some friendships don’t last and how to hold onto the ones that do.
“God has given us a responsibility to steward our friendships.”
“Be the kind of friend you wish to have.”
“Not all relationships are created equal.”
“Friendship is an investment but investments offer a return.”
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Welcome back, my friend. You are listening to episode 19 and today we’re talking about defining friendship and why some friends come and go.
Before we get into today’s topic, I want to ask you to do me a favor and screenshot a picture of the podcast and post it to your stories on Instagram and/or Facebook. For everyone who does that and tags me, I will put your name into a drawing for a $25 Starbucks gift card for this week ONLY. I’ll announce the winner on Friday! So, don’t forget to tag me @shandafulbright.
Ok. So do you ever wonder what it means to be a true friend? Do ever ask yourself why you can’t connect on a deeper level within your circle? Are you a person who has friends but it seems you cycle through them often?
When we talk about relationships, we must remember all things were good in creation except for one thing: man being alone. God is all about community and relationships. We need one another.
We’re going to talk about all of that today, and I also want to share some of my own experiences with friendship with you as we do. I feel it’s important to be transparent and I feel like God has taught me a lot about friendship as I’ve lived this life.
So, here’s what we’re going to talk about today:
1) The different levels of friendship. How do we define the relationships we have with others? This is important and I’ll explain why later.
2) What does God’s word say about friendship and what kind of example do we have in His word?
3) Why do we grow apart from friends who were once close?
We’re going to get into all of that today and I hope to shed some light on true friendship as defined in God’s word because that’s what really matters and that’s what we should strive for in our relationships, right?
A few years ago, I started to really think about who I called a friend. The definition of the word friend means “someone other than your family or lover that you share close affection with. You share kindness, sympathy, empathy, compassion, common interests, common beliefs, loyalty, and fun with them.”
Again, there are different degrees to friendship. But to me, if I call someone a friend, I hold them to a very high standard. My friends don’t just hang out with me. I welcome them into my home and they meet my husband, my children and my parents, siblings and entire family. I’ve had close friends to my house for holidays like Thanksgiving, Easter, the 4th of July. So, when I call you a friend, you don’t just get me, you get my whole life.
So, for me … I hold the other person to a high standard if I’m going to open up my life like that to you. I’ve just pushed you to a level of friendship that goes beyond all other levels.
But, the Lord began to deal with me about that. Maybe I’m expecting too much out of those I call friends. Maybe I’m putting them in a place they shouldn’t be in because my expectations are too high.
So, let’s remember what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about defining friendship according to God’s word and God’s way. Not according to my expectations or your idea of what a friend should be.
And with that, we need to talk about the different levels of friendship because not all relationships are created equal.
What I’m going to share with you today is taken from Discerning Levels of Friendship. They say there are 4 levels of friendship and they define them both:
- Acquaintance: this is someone you have occasional contact with. You talk to them about general things but nothing deep.
- Casual Friendship: this is someone you have common interests with. You may talk to them about their opinions, ideas, goals.
- Close friendship and fellowship: this relationship is based on mutual life goals. You may talk to them about reaching their goals, give them input and advice. You both are a part of the achievements in one another’s lives.
- Intimate friendship and fellowship: this is a relationship based on commitment to the development of each other’s character. You pour into one another and help each other become better people. You have the freedom to correct one another and you have open and honest conversation with discretion.
When God talks about friendship in His word, He doesn’t define an acquaintance from a best friend. But He does give us lots of insight into how to be a good friend. You’ll never see where God tells us how to go and find a good friend … He only tells us how to be one. And in that example we see what we want out of our friendships.
For me, I do a lot of mentoring. I do not consider all those I mentor my friends. Mentorship does not mean friendship because it can be one sided. I don’t go to my mentees and ask them for advice. But I do have friends I give advice to and they provide advice to me. That’s a mutual friendship with give and take.
So, it’s very important to define friendship in our lives and know where each person falls. When we do that, we know what to expect.
Friendships are good and good friendships are a blessing.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help him up.”
God cares about relationships. He wants us to cultivate right relationships in our lives. Friends are a blessing from the Lord and some friendships only come along once in a lifetime (David and Jonathan in Samuel).
The great thing about friendships is that we choose our friends and they choose us. But, the Bible give us a word of advice when it comes to how to choose a friend.
Proverbs 12:26 tells us, “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” This is why I am careful who I consider a friend.
Are you careful about the friends you choose? Does it matter to you what they believe, how they live?
Why is it important to choose our friends carefully? 1 Cor 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived. Bad company ruins good morals.” We have to be careful who we keep company with. We’re not talking about acquaintances here as much as we’re talking about those we hang out with, fellowship with and spend much of our time with.
Jim Rohn (and others) have said, you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. It is true that we are greatly influenced by those closest to us.
So, we must be careful how we choose our friends and put them in their rightful place within the levels of friendship that I described at the beginning of this point.
2) What does God expect from friendships and what examples do we have in His word?
First, a true friend loves you for who you really are. Prov 17:7 says, “A friend loves at all times.” That means friends love no matter what. We can express ourselves to our friends and they can do the same with us. We share our weaknesses, dreams and goals.
Even when a friend gets angry with you, they love you. And if you are a true friend you will love your friends even when they’re having a bad day.
Second, Friendship isn’t about what we get but what we give. Someone said, “True friendship is more like a covenant than a contract.” Proverbs offers many, many scriptures on friendship and it says, “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.”
Again, is your friendship about the benefits you receive or what you can give to the other person?
Third, friendship is an investment. But investments also mean you get a return, so I have a two part lesson for this truth.
First, John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Laying down ones life doesn’t mean you die for them. It means you sacrifice for them. It means you show up when it’s not necessarily convenient.
And here’s the other part:
friendship goes both ways. There are times when your friends will sacrifice for you. If it becomes one-sided, you may need to re-evaluate the level of friendship. Are they not as close to you as you thought they were? Are they considering you more of an acquaintance than a true friend? Adjustments in relationships are made at times because true friendship does have evidence.
Fourth, good friends make each other better people. Prov 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Friends should push us to be our best. We should push each other to do what God has called us to do. That means they encourage, cheer, correct, champion, and support one another.
Fifth, good friends tell the truth even when it hurts but you accept it because you know they mean good. Prob 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” I am always careful when people use over the top expressions with me. That means they say things like… you’re amazing? Or I love you! And I rarely talk to or hear from them. I feel like people who truly care that you do better will provide honest words of both kindness and correction. Friends should be able to do both.
3) Why do we grow apart from friends who were once close?
First, realize that some people are only meant to be in your life for a season. That can be hard because we make memories with our friends. But, in reality, we grow apart, go our separate ways, have unresolved conflict and personality conflicts.
Before we talk about why we grow apart in more depth, here are 7 signs you and your close friend may be growing apart:
This is taken from bustle.com and I’ll leave the link in the show notes.
- You have constant misunderstandings. Again, unresolved conflict.
- You go weeks without talking and it doesn’t bother you.
- Neither of you seems to prioritize the friendship.
- You have nothing in common anymore.
- When something major happens, you don’t think to call them.
- You don’t feel comfortable with them anymore.
- When you do make an effort, it’s just because you feel nostalgic.
Boy, have I been there!
Ok, so why does this happen? Why do we grow apart and stop being friends?
I wrote a blog post about a friend who moved and didn’t tell me. She was in my wedding, we worked together. I loved her. We had so much fun with each other and we were a lot alike.
For us, she was a different denomination and because she felt the pressure from her family, she pulled away. To be honest, it hurt a lot. I didn’t think we had to change our friendship because of our religion, but it made her uncomfortable. It took me a while to get through the hurt of it.
I had a high school friend who lived with us for a while. She was my best friend and we drove all over town listening to music, talking about boys, going to church camp. She gave her heart to the Lord but quickly pulled away. When she pulled away from God, she pulled away from me.
I lost a friend because of my relationship with God. That one hurt too. When I was younger, I didn’t understand. Now that I’m older, I get it. That’s just one of the consequences of serving the Lord.
Lately, I feel I’ve lost friends for much of the same reasons:
I am outspoken about my relationship with the Lord and my beliefs. My friends who know Jesus don’t necessarily disagree with what I say but they don’t like that I’m saying it. The fact that I have a podcast, speak and blog bothers them.
But to be honest, I was a minister before I met any of the friends I have today. This is who I am … I just happened to take my ministry to blogging, bible studies and this podcast.
So, friends come and go for many reasons:
*Life gets busy and we grow apart
*Friends feel threatened by each others success
*Different times of each others lives (kids, no kids, married, not married)
*We take different directions (happens after college to a lot of us)
If you’re going through this right now, understand that it is OK for you to move on if you have to. I’ve always said that true friendships that last a lifetime are as inspiring and rare as marriages that last a lifetime.
Relationships are investments and they really are what we make them. But, sometimes you may have to move on.
*I have two final examples for you from God’s word that I want to share:
First, David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18. What I love about this story is that everyone knows David very well. He was the shepherd boy who became a king. But a key player in his life was his best friend, Jonathan.
Jonathan sacrificed a lot more to be David’s friend and David gained more. Jonathan was next in line behind his father Saul to become the king. But, Jonathan saw that God chose David. Jonathan knew and encouraged David to be who God called him to be. Jonathan could have tried to get in the way. He could have allowed jealousy to divide them.
Instead, Jonathan acknowledged that God chose David. In 1 Sam 23:17 Jonathan said this to David, “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”
Jonathan portrays all of the things the Bible defines as true friendship. He was not selfish in his ambitions and he supported David in everything he did. It was evident to Jonathan that David was next in line to the throne because God chose David and he was determined to help him get there. And Jonathan was such a loyal friend, he stepped out of the way so that David would fulfill his God ordained purpose.
What a standard of friendship to hold onto! There was no competition. No jealousy.
How many of us can say we’re that kind of friend?
- And the second example I want to give is that of Samuel and Saul. They had a different relationship. Samuel was the prophet to the nation and Saul was the king of Israel. Samuel anointed Saul with oil, mentored him and encouraged him in the Lord.
He hoped for Saul, prayed for him and was there for him to guide him along his purpose. But what gets me about this is what God told Samuel as he mourned for Saul. Not because Saul was dead, but because God was about to remove him from his position as king.
Samuel’s heart went out to Saul. He didn’t want to give up on him. And this is what God said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:1, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way.”
There are times God tells us to move on from the relationship. We have to stop mourning over what was and what could be. Saul had his chance to restore, not only his relationship to God, but to Samuel as well. He chose not to. That changed his relationship with Samuel and God told Samuel to move on.
To wrap this up today, I want to reiterate how important relationships are to God. We should strive to be the kind of friend we want to have. I tell my boys all the time, if we follow what the Bible says about friendship, our relationships will be what God says they can be.
And then there are times when life takes its twists and turns and we move on. That’s OK too. Sometimes that is what it takes to learn, grow and to give the Lord an opportunity to bring people into your life who will cheer you on to be all you were meant to be in Christ.
But don’t forget … are you cheering for them too? Are you encouraging them? Sharpening them to be a better person? That is something only you can answer, my friend. And I really hope you take the time to reflect on that.
I wish you all the best in your relationships. Be the kind of friend you want to have … and I’ll catch you on the next episode!