I can count my true friends on the fingers of one hand, and I’m thankful for each one of them. There may be hundreds of acquaintances in our lives, but we’re fortunate to have four or five deep and abiding friendships—they’re treasures in our lives. What are the key elements in a strong friendship? While each friendship is unique, there are hallmarks of healthy relationships—traits that are necessary for a friendship to stand the test of time.
Common Values: It’s not necessary to see eye to eye with your friend on every issue, but it’s helpful if you view life from a similar perspective. Do you share creative interests, do you place a high value on family life. Do you agree on faith issues, politics, world problems or purpose in life? You’ll find you’re able to build a solid friendship when you share similar values.
Good Listening: A good friend will care enough to listen when you have something important to say. Conversely, you should expect to be heard too. Listening implies much more than just receiving sounds in your ears. It means you’ll carefully interpret the messages given, refrain from passing on information to others without permission, and be available to share back and forth until communication has been achieved.
Flexibility: There is a give and take to a long-term friendship. There may be periods of time when you don’t get together as often as you’d like. There may be disagreements to work through. When life is less than perfect, a real friend can accept you as you are, and a solid friendship can weather a few disappointments. Good friends are worth some effort.
Trust: Without honesty and reliability, there is no friendship. Can you count on what your friend tells you to be true? Can you expect your friend to keep conversations confidential? Do you know you’ll be treated fairly and kindly? Does your friend always want the best for you? Does she “have your back?”
Joy: A good friend is an encourager. She wants your life to be full and successful. She will nurture you and allow you to do the same for her. You’ll love the time you spend together and you’ll share an entire spectrum of emotions together, from sorrow to sheer joy. You look back on times spent with your friend and smile.
Can you identify the above five traits in your friendships? Are there areas you’d like to strengthen or turn around in a relationship? If you find opposing traits such as jealousy, criticism, judgment, and other negativity, your friendship may need a tune-up. By all means, cherish your friendships. Nurture them and count them one of life’s richest blessingsPull quotes
We’re fortunate to have four or five deep and abiding friendships—they’re treasures in our lives. Nurture your friendships. Count them one of life’s richest blessings.
Cheryl Johnson, MEd, is the Director of the Child Development Program of Washington State University, Vancouver, WA.
Jan Pierce, MEd, is a retired teacher and freelance writer who writes about education and family life. She works with schools and orphanages in India.