7 Meaningful Ways to Affirm a Friend
It can be difficult to maintain friendships as an adult. Everyone is dealing with family issues, careers, and children. Someone might be going through a divorce or a cross-country move. They might be changing jobs or homeschooling or signing up for foster care. Life is busy, but we need our tribe! And affirming each other in friendship is a crucial element to maintaining it. Here are 7 ways you can affirm a friend and strengthen your relationship.
The older I get, the more thankful I am for the steady friendships in my life.
I think back to the friendships of my youth—how they shifted based on any given person’s mood, what someone allegedly said behind someone else’s back, or who attended which event. They were victims of the ever-shifting sands of gossip, rumors, and teenaged hormones. But as I got older, I discovered the joy of solid friendships—the ones that last no matter the miles or the trauma accrued. I learned the beauty in the friendships that are maintained in the heart, even if communication is sparse or limited to social media. I realized the gift that friendship truly is, and how desperately I need my tribe in my life.
It can be difficult to maintain friendships as an adult. Everyone is dealing with family issues, careers, and children. Someone might be going through a divorce or a cross-country move. They might be changing jobs or homeschooling or signing up for foster care. Life is busy, but we need our tribe! And affirming each other in friendship is a crucial element to maintaining it.
Here are 7 ways you can affirm a friend and strengthen your relationship.
Consistency is important in friendship. While it’s not realistic that you speak every day or get together every week, the emotional support of knowing your friend is there for you can do wonders for the soul. Make sure your friends know that. Don’t be a fair-weather friend and only show up when you have good news to share or a need of your own. Reach out. Remember that when you do get together for play dates or coffee, don’t waste time on your phone or be distracted by your to-do list. Be present! Be encouraging.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV) "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."
It’s important that we genuinely care about the details in our friends’ life. We’re all different people, and while your friend might have hobbies or goals that wouldn’t interest you personally, you can still show interest because you care about them. Make an effort to keep up with your friend when they have an upcoming job interview, important meeting, or new relationship budding. Ask questions. Engage. Don’t wait for them to come to you—be the friend that takes the first step first.
Romans 12:10-11 (ESV) "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord."
It’s easy to get caught up in the details and messes of our own lives, but it’s important that we take a step back from ourselves and look for needs in our friends’ life. Could they benefit from a quick text message of encouragement? Could they use a home-cooked meal because it’s a busy season in their life? Could they use a handwritten note of support or an offer to babysit their kids for a much-needed date night? Look for needs in your friend’s life and do all that you can to meet it. This blesses them—but it also blesses you in return. There’s so much joy in helping others. Often, our friends can be struggling, and we don’t even realize it. So ask questions. Be involved. And take action!
Proverbs 17:17 (ESV) "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."
I know many people who, unfortunately, refuse to take the first step in relationships (be it friendships, family dynamics or romantic relationships) and demand that others reach out to them first. Relationships get strained when they feel one-sided, and bitterness grows like an out of control weed. Try to put aside your expectations and be generous, loving, and selfless with your affection, time, and energy. It’s not a true friendship if something is always “owed” or expected. There will certainly be seasons in life when one friend is more available than the other, but don’t worry about what’s “fair” or “even.” Don’t fall into the trap of assuming the worst about your friends’ motivations. Just reach out and encourage. Build up! Use your words to uplift them. You might be surprised at how badly they needed it.
One of the most beautiful examples of strong friendships in the Bible is that of David and Jonathan. Jonathan could have easily succumbed to bitterness or jealousy—after all, he was the existing king’s son. He could have taken the throne instead. But envy wasn’t a part of Jonathan’s heart, and by the grace and sovereignty of God, Jonathan became the type of friend and support system David desperately needed. Jonathan saved David’s life, put aside his own “rights,” and devoted himself to his friend under the Lord. It’s a powerful example of the beauty in selflessness.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
Be a Good Listener
We all like to talk about ourselves, right? It’s a natural urge. But we need to be careful how much of our friendships are all about us. Make sure you’re not the one always talking about your problems and your needs. Ask your friend what they need! And remember that sometimes the best way to affirm a friend is to simply listen. Resist the urge to give advice unless it's requested. Also, when your friend makes a mistake, don’t hold it over their head. Be a safe place for them. If you advised against something and they did it anyway, they already know your stance. You don’t have to remind them. Nothing kills a friendship faster than a spirit of “I told you so.” Seek to not just listen, but truly hear what your friend is saying—and always respond in love.
Galatians 6:2 (ESV)"Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Friendships ideally need to be a place of trust and security for both parties. When something is told in confidence, be sure to keep the secret! Don’t be guilty of loose lips or gossiping. Be a safe place for your friend to land. One of the beauties of true friendship between believers is the privilege of accountability. When you’re a safe place for your friend and vice versa, you provide an outlet for the Biblical principle of confessing sin to each other. Nothing bonds like two believers with the same passions who hold each other up in their walk with the Lord.
1 John 1:9 (ESV) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Friendships are a gift, and we should never take them for granted. Don’t ever underestimate the power of friendship. When I was going through my divorce years ago, the Lord sent a tribe of people into my life that sustained me, prayed for me, worshipped next to me, invited me along, built me up, forgave me when I messed up, and served as guardrails for my vulnerable, broken heart that was trying to learn how to beat again. When you aren’t sure what to do for a friend in crisis, remember that your presence, your prayers, and your hugs go a long way. The smallest gestures are received—and remembered—so deeply by broken hearts. It’s a tattoo among friends! So say the prayer, send the text, make the phone call, or make the meal, and trust that you’re making an eternal difference in your friends’ lives. They’ll be grateful for you.
Philippians 1:3-5 "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of fourteen inspirational romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her newlywed hubby, two story-telling young daughters, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she's not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. Look for her latest novel with HarperCollins, LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES, and POCKET PRAYERS FOR FRIENDS with Max Lucado. Visit her at http://www.betsystamant.com./
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