The Friends You Need
Over a lifetime, friends come and go. They hold us up through the tough times, serve as armchair counselors and are always good for a laugh. What kind of friends should you be looking for? Here's an assortment of people who enrich, entertain and give you opportunities to flex your friendship muscles.
- Old-As-Your-Parents Friend
An age difference of 15 or 20 years between you and a friend can yield surprisingly good results. You may not want to dish about your latest date with your parents, but the old-as-your-parents friend is a completely different story. (And when she says the same thing your mother would, somehow it doesn't sound as bad.) She provides wisdom and perspective beyond your contemporaries and an experienced faith. As an added bonus, she thinks the world of you.
- Goal-Setter Friend
The goal-setter's life is about action. Mention your dreams around him and he'll start setting deadlines. He can force 'you out of your comfort zone and help turn that talked-about master's degree or European backpacking trip into reality.
- Smarter-Than-You'll-Ever-Be Friend
She can explain the El Niño weather pattern, provide historical background on the breakup of the Soviet Union and see the parallels between your life and that of the protagonist in Crime and Punisbment. Though best when balanced with a no-such-thing-as-stress friend (see No. 18), she promotes serious thought when it's most needed, provides stirring social and political analysis and impresses parents at informal gatherings. (And if nothing else, she'll keep you humble.)
- College Roommate Friend
You sang praise songs together on the steps of South Hall, discussed the nature of angels in past-midnight drowsiness and took the convertible out in the snow with the top down. She's the best person to laugh at the outcome of your scatterbrained tendencies (which, of course, she shares). She may be married with two kids, but you can still pick up the phone, catch her answering machine and feel like everything will be OK.
- Known-You-Forever-And-Still-Loves-You Friend
He's known you since "Poopy Pants" and "Booger Head" were the worst insults you knew. He remembers all 54 of your detentions and that unfortunate string of junior-high romances. He loves you anyway and provides connection to your past. (And besides, you've got just as much dirt on him.)
- Artist Friend
Life would be incredibly predictable without a poet, musician or painter to challenge your preconceived notions, enable you to feel other people's pain and reshape or shatter the box you've become comfortable in. An artist friend helps you to see the rich texture of the world—details you would miss. She requires patience and a willingness to suspend your worldview long enough to consider the theories she's been exploring.
- Barrel-Of-Needs Friend
Someone in your circle of friends is guaranteed to be at this stage; at some point it will be you. The great job turned into a nightmare. The best girlfriend he ever had dumped him. The frightful mother figure continues to wield her controlling tongue via long-distance calls and email. Whatever it is, he needs your help. And you need to help him. You comfort him with the comfort you've been given and carry his burdens in your prayers.
- Truth-Speaking Friend
She doesn't hesitate to tell you when you've been a fool or to challenge you with the life-changing truth you may otherwise avoid. She speaks in love and kindness. But most of all, she speaks truth and you need to hear it. It will be tempting to run at first, but don't go. Stay. Listen. Learn.
- Oh-Brother Friend
He shares your parents, your hometown, your Christmas traditions and your steel-blue Scandinavian eyes. The noogies have stopped, but he still gives you grief at every available opportunity. The fact that he's proud of your latest promotion or new house makes you feel like a kid again.
- Searching Friend
The friendship started with the office pool for the Final Four or the weekly Chinese takeout run, then grew into lunch-hour discussions about deeper things. He senses a need within himself and considers filling it with the God you know, but such a life change may be more than he's ready for. He continues to look, and you continue to sense that God's tugging at him. Your role is to listen, to provide guidance and to pray.
- Married (Honestly!) Friend
She opens up about what really goes on behind those happily-ever-after doors and admits that, occasionally, she'd rather be single. The challenge of managing finances together, of watching her husband struggle through a situation she can't change, of coming face to face with her own selfishness—these realities of married life can help you deal with the grass-is- greener-over-there syndrome. You have a better chance of being content with your single state if you have at least one married friend who will talk honestly about the pros and cons of being a spouse. (If you don't, ask - you may be surprised at her answers.)
- Gold-Star Friend
These friendships are not always available, but when they are, they're priceless. A gold-star friend provides wise counsel and serious prayer. He listens to you whenever you need it. He hurts with you. He rejoices for you. He's a bit of comfort and warmth. You never have to worry about where you stand because a gold star is faithful. You can share deep thoughts even if it's been months since you've seen him. And it's not unusual at the end of the night for both of you to feel like you did too much talking and not enough listening.
- Move-In-If-You-Need-To Friend
Similar to the gold-star friend, you may come to view her as family. You know that if life ever got too bad, you could pack your bags and move to her place until things settled down no questions asked.
- Different-Theological-Background Friend
He crosses himself before dinner and believes Bach makes the best worship music. Or maybe his version of being filled with the Spirit leaves you nervously looking for the nearest exit. Together you explore the depths and differences of your faith and learn a deeper love and appreciation through it all.
- Prayer-Posse Friend(s)
One praying friend is not enough. At times, you need an army. When sudden grief strikes, they're an email or phone call away. When you're at your lowest, you cling to the fact that they are lifting you up while you hold onto that hope like the life-saving rope that pulls you from the rapids. Praying friends avoid platitudes ("It will all turn out for the best. You'll see.") and instead offer gentle truth when you're ready for it. They give you space but hold you close in prayer. You hope to be strong enough when they need you to return the favor.
- More-Outgoing-Than-You Friend
He walks into a party and knows everyone in the room in five minutes. He may overwhelm you at first, but he's a faithful friend who, of course, would be glad to introduce you to the girl in the red sweater you've had your eye on all night.
- Wide-Eyed-Youth Friend
She wears braces and may just be starting to think about college plans, but she's still malleable. And she thinks you're cool. Sharing a movie, pizza and a few well-spoken words wields great influence in her young life. Like you with the old-as-your-parents friend, she'll give you the dirt she would never give her parents.
- No-Such-Thing-As-Stress Friend
His life centers on what makes him happy. A hammock on the back porch? A Sunday afternoon hike? Whatever it is, if it's relaxing or fun, he'll be there. He may not be the most loyal friend—you're likely to find yourself alone if he finds something he'd rather do at the last minute—but he can help you de-stress and remind you not to take life all that seriously.
- Non-Christian Friend
You can have more laughs with her than with most of your Christian friends. Her perspective keeps you sharp in why you believe what you believe, while connecting you to the "real world." She keeps you on your knees every day. Most important, you accept and love each other for who you are.
Reprinted from Christian Single magazine, May 2002 issue, published by LifeWay Church Resources. Used by permission.