Navigating the waters of friendship can come easily for many who have had a stable upbringing and great example of closeness among their parents’ friends. For most of us, sustaining a healthy and long-term friendship can be exhausting and bring on the arousal of fear, insecurity or some of our deeper heart issues. Even those who have had incredible experiences and examples around them can turn sharply towards isolation after one destructive encounter with someone deeply cared about. The desire to be a part of a community and family larger than those living inside our shared four walls has been there in every human since creation. We all long for a connection to others that allows us to not only gain insight and wisdom from them, but also pour out of our own accomplishments the ability to help and give. Most relationships require five basic things to be strong and sustainable.
Listen- It’s clear when sharing something either intimate or important if there are attentive ears or not. We all want to be heard and understood. Being a listener is vital to a friendship. Body language, pause and reflection, and eye contact convince another that you are listening. It’s important to even recap what your friend is telling you so they know you heard them clearly and thought about what they said.
Accept- In most cases, no two people will ever share the exact same opinion on everything, and I am sure the odds decrease drastically as you add more people to the mix. Creating a healthy long term friendship will require you to accept others as they are with no expectation of being able to change their view or opinion. Recognizing we are ALL flawed in our own way and caring for another in spite of those flaws is genuineness in friendship.
Respect- Plans, conversations, and interactions won’t always go exactly how we picture them with our friends. Learning to not use manipulative or offensive language is a must to cultivate better relationships. Respect their decisions, choices, and needs. A mom who cancels on an engagement may have something deeper going on than trying to ruin your plans. Respecting their boundaries and loving them where their needs can be met will be a foundational exercise.
Care- A wise man once said that if you desire to be great, you must be servant of all. Caring for ourselves is not a bad thing, but when we unhealthily prioritize our needs above others we are left feeling empty and unfulfilled. This idea goes against everything culture would teach us. In a world that centers around ‘me’, finding a friend that cares deeply about you and your family can be rare. This does not mean that we don't take care of ourselves, but when crisis strikes, or the needs of our friend are pounding at the heart, we stop and care for them. Making a meal to help them after the death of a parent, showing up with a shoulder to cry on when they just discovered an unfaithful spouse, or even offering to help drive their child to school to relieve morning stress can all be simple and practical ways to show you care.
Trust- In any relationship, especially in friendship, honesty is crucial. If you have ever felt betrayed because of lying and manipulation, you understand the strain it causes on your friendship. It becomes a solid brick wall separating you from their emotions, actions, and behaviors. It is the one thing that is harder to regain in a relationship than anything else. Be trustworthy and loving in your honesty to have deeper friendships.
There is no surefire way to create deep long-lasting friendships. There will always be conflicting personalities, abusive relationships and those to avoid. By using these simple tips along with exercising forgiveness, commitment, and humility, you can better the friendships you do maintain and have them be life-long trustees of your heart.