20 Ways to Cultivate the Lifelong Friendships You Long For

young group of friends laughing together with sun setting, lifelong frienship

I wanted to hold on to them forever, those high school best friends. But you know how that story goes. We stayed connected, but then life happened, and we drifted apart.

I’ve had many friendships come and go as life and circumstances have changed. And I've learned that true, lifelong friendships must be cultivated.

I've discovered much along the way about the type of friendships I want in my life and see now that it needs to start with me. I must be the type of friend that I want to have. Luke 6:31 tells us to do to others as we would have them do to us.

How about you? Would you like to deepen your friendships? Is your goal and prayer to cultivate friendships that last a lifetime?

Here 20 ways that lifelong friendships can start with you:

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  • two women best friends laughing together

    1. Appreciate Your Friends


    You call your friends “friend” for a reason. You like them. There is undoubtedly much that you appreciate about them. Let them know! Be generous with your words of affirmation that demonstrate how much you value them for who they are. Also, share your gratitude for their friendship and kindnesses. Tell them and tell them often. If you think these nice thoughts, send them a text or drop a card in the mail.

    Be certain they know they are cherished.

    2. Celebrate with Them

    Sharing life with a friend includes celebrations, big and small. Celebrate with great abandon all the weddings, birthdays, promotions, achievements, graduations, sicknesses overcome, and milestones. Thank God with them!

    Have you let a few come and go without enough time to acknowledge them? Don’t let that stop you. It is better to jump back in than to stop altogether because you missed special moments. Apologize and return to celebrating. This is some of life’s good stuff. Enjoy it all together!

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  • Praying women on a couch, grieve with friends, how to cultivate lifelong friendship

    3. Grieve with Them


    Sharing life with a friend also includes losses, disappointments, sicknesses, and a multitude of sadnesses. Be present with them in it. Don’t be afraid to sit with them in their discomfort. You can’t heal all their wounds, or make the hurt go away, but don’t let that stop you. Create a safe, nonjudgmental space for them to grieve. Pray for them and with them.

    4. Grace

    Give it and receive it too. Grab it by the handfuls. Throw it like confetti. You are not perfect. You are an in-process human who makes mistakes regularly, and so are they. Let as much as you can go.

    “One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.” (Proverbs 17:9)

    (Note: Boundaries are certainly important in friendships as well.)

    Photo Credit: © Ben White/Unsplash

  • two young men sitting on stairs having serious conversation

    5. Be Honest about Your Needs and Feelings


    Are you struggling with something? Have a hurt you aren't sharing? Uncomfortable with what a friend is doing or saying? Does your friend never ask about you? Are you in the middle of a struggle and have certain things you need?

    Be honest. Be vulnerable. Don’t miss out on a deeper friendship because you want to avoid the discomfort of honesty.

    6. Know Them

    We all want to be known, so get to know your friends. Pay attention to what they care about and what they talk about. Engage in things that they like. Ask them about their enneagram number. Do they love basketball, but you don’t? Don’t fake it, but do try to acknowledge and participate in their passions. Ask them questions about themselves. Be sensitive to how much you talk, versus how much you listen. Know them and show them that you do.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Lorenzo Antonucc

  • friends at table serving each other

    7. Serve Your Friend


    Give of yourself, your time, giftings, and energy. Show up when they need you. Take dinner, send flowers, pray for them, and babysit. Do what you can to serve your friends.

    No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

    8. Allow Yourself to Be Served

    When life's waters grow choppy, and your friends want to serve you, let them. Having needs isn't a weakness. This makes YOU a better friend, because you have given them the blessing of serving someone they love. It also requires you to be vulnerable, and it brings deeper intimacy into the relationship. When you allow someone to serve you, you invite them in to the harder, messier sides of your life.

    If your friends ask what they can do, respond with an answer. You’ll both be glad you did.

    Photo Credit: © Pexels/fauxels

  • happy friend listening to upset friend sitting on couch

    9. Listen


    Let your friends talk. Ask open ended questions and then listen. If they are sharing, pause before jumping in with your experiences, thoughts, or stories. Give the gift of silence in-between thoughts so they can continue to process.

    10. Keep Envy in Check

    It is human to feel envy, but we know that God warns us against coveting what our friends have been given. Be aware of when your jealousy flares up. Pray and do what it takes to overcome those feelings and thoughts. Envy can create a fissure in your friendship that grows and grows.

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  • view of road from dashboard of car with map spread out

    11. Plan Ahead for Fun Things to Look Forward To


    Try to always have fun things to do together on the calendar, even if they need to be far into the future. A monthly dinner? Annual vacation? Cabin trip?

    Movie night? You both have families and obligations but still, make an effort to prioritize time together.

    12. Accept Your Roles

    Are you the planner in your friendships? If you always plan the outings, it is easy to become bitter. You’d love for your friends to plan things, but they never do. Or, do you grow tired of always being the one who checks in with calls or texts?

    While it is important to have boundaries, consider whether the pattern that frustrates you is worth losing a friendship over. Or, is it simply a personality and gifting difference? Accept that this might be your role, and don’t waste time being frustrated. Consider what each person brings to the friendship.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Julentto

  • two senior women laughing together walking on beach

    13. Laugh


    Laugh. Levity is a gift to be enjoyed together. Life is hard, so by all means, giggle. Send each other funny memes, see funny movies together, suggest watching and texting about a comedy together. What can you do to help your friends laugh?

    14. Don’t Quit When You Mess Up

    Did you fail your friend? Are you an imperfect friend? Of course! All friends fail each other. Everyone lets others down, and none of us can be all things to our friends. Don’t step away from a friendship just because you messed up. Jump back in with humility and grace.

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  • woman comforting man who looks distressed, both in business clothes sitting on steps

    15. Say You are Sorry


    Be quick to apologize. You will mess up. You will be weird and wrong. Surrender your anger, be vulnerable, and reach out with an apology.

    16. Cheer Them On

    Show up for them as they journey forward. Be their fan and their cheerleader. Know what they are working for and be a place where they can check-in on those things. Ask questions and support them. With words and actions, show them that you believe in them with your words and actions. Celebrate when they succeed and cheerlead while they are pushing forward.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Rawpixel

  • woman looking happy looking at her phone

    17. Check In


    Haven’t heard from your friend in a while? Be the one who checks in. When you think of them, let them know. Is it always you? Check in anyway.

    18. Scratch the Surface

    Is your friend harder to get to know? Do they hold themselves back or even push you away a bit? Do they go through phases of pulling away? Be willing to dig in and look beyond some of the walls they place around them. Look beyond the barriers or differences between the two of you.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Meghan Schiereck

  • two women sitting on couch with crossed arms looking upset and angry, how to forgive when you don't feel forgiving

    19. Don’t Expect Them to Meet All Your Needs


    If your friend can never meet all your needs, if your expectations of them are too high, it will be difficult to be friends with you. It is easy to really get along well with someone and then hope they’ll make you happy, that they’ll fill a spot where something is missing in your life. Know that no other person can meet all your needs and make you happy all the time.

    (Note: Boundaries are something to be mindful of. Part of a friendship is having some of your needs met. This refers to extreme, unfillable needs.)

    20. Accept Change

    For friendships to stand the test of time, accept that things change. Circumstances, locations, opinions, jobs, tastes, and interests will be ever-evolving. Let it be so.

    If you hold stubbornly onto the past, trying to force everything to remain the same, then your friendship can’t move into the future.

    If you want to have lifelong friends, BE a lifelong friend. Strong friendships must be cultivated, but when you do, it will be one of God’s very best gifts.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Antonio Guillem

    Rebecca Radicchi, her husband and crew of kids, live outside Atlanta, where the summers are hot and the tea is sweet. She’s ridden the waves of adoption, breast cancer, and being the mom of kids with complex medical needs. And, through it all, she’s seen that abundance can be found in the uncomfortable hard and in the easy beautiful. She’s also discovered that whether she’s passing bread at the kitchen table, clock-watching in a hospital waiting room, or listening to a neighbor on a porch swing, God always has something to say. It’s a wonder really. She encourages others to listen for it too on her website and Instagram, and also connects with adoptive families at No Hands But Ours.