What Kind of Friend Are You?

by Mary

Here’s the truth …

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17 NLT).

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I just had the most amazing reunion with 10 girlfriends from my Pittsburgh days.  We get together once a year for a Christmas celebration--after Christmas is over, of course, so that we can get the after-Christmas sales on our gifts for each other.  We call ourselves the Bible Study Girls, because that’s what brought all of us together--our desire to learn more about God with like-minded sisters.  These reunions now are strictly social, but it got me thinking, as we each gave our update on our lives, that we have managed to sustain a relationship with each other for almost 20 years, even though many live clear across the country and fly in for our gatherings.  We text when big events happen that need prayer, but otherwise, we lead fairly separate lives, miles apart from each other.

How is this even possible?  I have another group, my college friends, and the same applies.  Long-distance friendships can stand the test of time as long as people know that you continue to want the best for them. 

Some, however, don’t make maintaining friendships very easy.  If you don’t seem to have lasting friendships, there could be some reasons!  What type of friend might you be? 

The first friend type is the Endless Talker.  She never shuts up!  All it takes is for you to ask, “How are you?” and out comes a 30-minute response!  You can put the phone down, run to the laundry room to throw in a load, run back, pick up the phone, and she’ll still be talking, totally unaware that you ever left.  You simply need to jump in once in a while with “Oh really?” or “Wow, you don’t say?”  So, you might want to consider if you do most of the talking and not a lot of listening with your friends if you seem to be struggling in your friendships.

I’d take the endless talker any day, though, over the non-committal friend.  You ask these friends, “Hey, you wanna get a pedicure this weekend?  You wanna stop for coffee after church?  You wanna catch a movie?”  You try everything, but no matter what you ask, they are always evasive, aren’t they?  They use phrases like, “I don’t know?  I’m not sure.  I’ll have to let you know.”  Do you make yourself unavailable a bit too often?

And then there are those friends who do more before noon than you do in a week.  You call your Martha Stewart friend on the phone and ask her what she’s been up to.  She says, “Well, I put the kids on the bus and then went right to work on my teapot cozies.  I was only able to make twelve today before I baked homemade bread with thyme-infused butter and three lasagnas for the neighbors.  By then it was almost eleven, so I delivered my lasagnas and went downtown to pick up litter off the sidewalks before I was off to the rescue mission to serve lunch.  Now I’m working on dinner for my family.  It’s nothing fancy, just a little Beef Wellington with roasted fingerling potatoes and bacon-wrapped asparagus and a chocolate soufflé for dessert. How about you?”

And you answer, “Well, I’ve been folding laundry today while watching a CSI marathon on TV. . . .”  

She responds, “Oh that’s nice!  You’re so good at laundry!”  She ends the conversation saying that she’s off to turn water into wine. Sigh.  Do you tend to exhaust your friends with your “seize-the-day” attitude?

Then there’s the “my kid is so much better than your kid” friend.  You happen to mention that you have to take your kid to karate later which seems to invite this friend to tell you how her kid got her black belt at the age of three and is already onto mastering jiu jitsu. Or when you complain that your kid could be more focused when it comes to math, your friend tells you that her kid was a math Olympian and helped his teacher write the curriculum.  No matter what you say in passing, your friend can’t help herself.  I’d say that you should stick to talking about the weather with this friend, but her kid is probably a meteorologist or something!  Are you able to hear about other people’s children without chiming in about yours?

Oh, and finally, we have the needy, complaining friend.  She says, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I woke up this morning and saw that I chipped a nail.  When in the world am going to find time to fix that, with my boss breathing down my neck to meet that unreasonable deadline for that project we had no business taking on!  And, of course, I don’t even get to eat lunch as it is, let alone find time for a manicure.  If only my folks lived nearby, I’d have more help with the kids and could take more time for myself.  But it’s just not in the cards for me to be happy right now. . . .”  You hear, “Blah, blah, blah,” and you break out the tissues and roll your eyes when she’s blowing her nose, right?  Do you find yourself complaining like this often, too, usually about inconsequential things? 

Now, please hear me that I have been all of these less-than-desirable friends to others at some points in my life.  That’s how I am able to recognize them in others.  But I try to be introspective about my behaviors in order to be less exasperating to my friends.  Friends look to us for inspiration, not exasperation!  God’s Word tells us that “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17 NLT).  I encourage you to sharpen your friends.

Now, if you happen to have friends who exhibit these traits, keep in mind that you are called to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NLT).  There is good in every person.  Try to see your friends with compassion and find the good. 

After all, the Martha Stewart keeps you from becoming a couch potato. And you know darn well that for every needy friend you have, other patient friends have seen the same neediness in you.  The noncommittal friend teaches you not to over-commit yourself, which you know you can easily do.  The friend with the amazing kid reminds you that it’s not polite to brag about your child.  And the endless talker?  Well, she sometimes is witty in the middle of all that yapping!  We can all work on becoming a better friend to others.

 … and that’s the truth as I know it!

Mary