Girlfriends in God - Aug. 29, 2007


August 29, 2007

The Layers of Friendship

Mary Southerland



Today’s truth

John 13:34 "And so I am giving a new commandment to you now--love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples."


Friend to Friend

The best friendships are created by layers of kind actions. Several years ago, Dan was into woodwork as a hobby. I enjoyed his hobby because I got several pieces of beautiful furniture out of the deal! I decided to join him in this venture and began to stain and finish the things he built. The staining was fun because it was easy and quick to do, but the first time I had to apply a lacquer finish, I decided there had to be an easier way. So I headed to Home Depot where I found a very patient employee who was glad to help me in my search. He showed me every finishing product the store carried. I quickly decided they all took too long and reminded the man that I needed something quick, a one coat job. He gently explained, “If you want a beautiful piece of furniture, it takes time and several layers of lacquer. There are no shortcuts.” The same is true in friendship. It takes layers of kind actions to create a beautiful friendship. 1 John 3:18 says we must love, “not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” As my mama would say, “Put your money where your mouth is!”


Here are several actions we can take to build healthy, solid friendships:


1. Traditions


Traditions are one of the most important ingredients in solid friendships. It may be a weekly lunch or a daily coffee break, a special shopping trip to your favorite mall or dinner and a movie on the first Saturday of each month. Traditions build memories that accumulate and build friendship. My mother was a nurse. Every afternoon, she would come home from work; change clothes and hand wash her white uniform at the kitchen sink. Standing there, she watched through the window for Mrs. Chism, our neighbor who, seeing mother at the sink would walk across the empty lot that separated our house from hers, knock on the door and come in for a cold drink and a visit. It was a daily tradition that was part of their friendship.


2. Gifts


A gift is a wonderful action to take in friendship; all kinds of gifts. The gift doesn’t have to be big or expensive. It’s simply a symbol of time, energy and thought given to a friend. It could be a note or a funny card, a magnet for the refrigerator or their favorite candy bar. The greatest gift that you can give to a friend is yourself…favors done back and forth, errands run or a phone call just to say “hi”. These are all tiny statements of love and carry the message, “I am thinking about you, friend.”


3. Words


The words of a real friend are filled with acceptance. Acceptance and tolerance are two different things. Acceptance says, “I love you.” Tolerance says, “I love you, but you have to change this area of your life or I am out of here!” When we find someone who accepts us just as we are, we have found a true friend.


The words of a real friend edify. Criticism should always be spoken one on one, face to face. On the other hand, we need to be free with our encouragement. We not only need to speak it, but we need to write it. When our son was ten years old, his Mother’s Day gift was a box that he had built himself and painted blue, my favorite color. To this day, I keep that box in my bedroom in a special place, not only because Jered made it for me, but also because it serves an important purpose. Every note of encouragement I receive goes in that box. On tough days, I pull a few of those notes out to read. They never fail to cheer me up. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to “encourage each other to build each other up”. The word “encourage” means “to inspire courage” or to “put courage in”. Friends look for reasons in each other to praise God, seizing every opportunity to deposit some courage into the life of a friend. Friends shine a spotlight on the good qualities and minimize the bad.

The words of a real friend are sensitive. This is the idea of being “tuned in” to the feelings of your friend, being real and loving. Brenda Mashburn is a friend like this. One Sunday morning, Brenda and I hurriedly passed each other on the stairs at church, giving the typical greeting of “Hi there!” and “How are you?” Brenda stopped in the middle of the stairway, looked at me and said, “I can tell something is bothering you. Can I help?” We stepped into the corner and I shared the burden I thought was carefully hidden. She prayed for me, gave me a hug and we went our separate ways. The entire exchange lasted five minutes, but because of her sensitivity, I was encouraged to go on. Take time to be sensitive to the needs of a friend.


4. Listening


Listening, by definition, means “attention, with the intention to understand.” James 1:19 tells us that everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak.” There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we talk and should note that the mouth was created to shut, while the ears weren’t! Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is offer a listening ear and heart. Put away the sermon. Hold onto your advice and just listen! Then take those needs to God in prayer.

God didn’t create us to be islands or to exist alone, but to first need Him as Friend. Proverbs 18:24 describes Him as a “friend who sticks closer than a brother”. Friendship with Him makes every other friendship possible. We all need friends. We all need to learn how to be a friend. Today, make the decision to step out in faith, taking the challenge to be a true friend.


Let’s pray

Lord, I confess to You that I have often said, “I don’t have time for friends!” I knew it would take time and effort. Please forgive me for my self-centered attitude as I choose now to be a friend. Teach me Your ways and help me be a faithful friend. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Now it’s your turn

Make a list of three friends. Under each name, record one way that you can be a better friend by:


  • creating traditions
  • giving gifts
  • using words of encouragement
  • learning to listen


Commit this list to God and ask for His eyes and His heart in building better friendships.

Post this list on your refrigerator, keep it in your purse…in your car…on your mirror.

At the end of one month, evaluate your friendships, using this list as the standard.


More from the girlfriends

My husband often says, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!” When it comes to being a friend, we need to get real and get specific! Do you want to be a better friend? Would you like to have healthier friendships? Take action, girlfriend! And just see what God does. By the way, my book, “Sandpaper People” will give you more tools for building healthy relationships. One of Gwen’s CDs or Sharon’s books would make a great gift for a friend. Visit their websites today and get started building friendship traditions!



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Originally published Wednesday, 29 August 2007.