How You Can Make True Friends
“THE only way to have a friend is to be one,” wrote Emerson, the American poet. Friendship is a two-way street involving the spirit of giving. Introverts and those with selfish tendencies find it difficult to make true friends. Nevertheless, they can succeed, as we shall see.
True friendship grows out of love because love draws people. Yet some have difficulty making friends. How can a person overcome this?
“Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves,” advised Dale Carnegie. When strangers meet, perhaps at a social gathering, who are the ones that make friends? Not the big talkers but those who take a warm interest in others, drawing them out and really listening to them. Remembering names and interesting facts about new acquaintances can also help to develop friendships.
In Fundamentals of Interpersonal Communication, Kim Giffin and Bobby R. Patton recommend self-disclosure and genuineness. “For someone to be important to you,” they say, “you must know something about him/her that matters to you . . . [Be] open and frank at all times . . . Your responses to the other person must be sincere.”
True friends are not only honest but also considerate, never imposing on each other or being overly possessive. They understand each other, can sense the other person’s view of things, and can thus show empathy. As the relationship grows, they open their hearts to each other, becoming not only true friends but also close friends. Not all true friends are close friends. Jesus Christ, the friendliest person ever on earth, made many friends, but only a few were really close friends.—Mark 9:1-10; Luke 8:51.
The Book of True Friendship
The Bible, by far the best book on the subject of friendship, says: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) True friends are compassionate and ready to provide help when problems arise. Here is a fine example of this—a story from the days of ancient Israel.
Because of famine, a man of Judah moved to Moab with his wife, Naomi. In time he died. Later, his two sons married the Moabite girls Ruth and Orpah. Then the sons died, leaving three widows alone. Naomi, the mother, decided to return to Judah, and her two daughters-in-law set off with her. However, along the way Naomi urged the young women to go back and seek new husbands among their own people. Orpah did so, but Ruth insisted on going with Naomi. Why? Because she was much more than a daughter-in-law; she was also a true friend. For one thing, her compassionate nature would not permit her to let the elderly widow, bereft of her family, go on alone.—Ruth 1:1-17.
Ruth showed real empathy, kindness, loyalty, and love. Those qualities form the solid basis of true friendship. There was, however, another factor involved in Ruth’s relationship with Naomi.
Friendship on a Higher Plane
When Naomi urged her to go back, Ruth said: “Do not plead with me to abandon you, . . . for where you go I shall go . . . Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Naomi had helped Ruth, formerly a pagan, to know and love the true God, Jehovah. Their shared belief became a powerful spiritual bond drawing the two women together as true friends. And Jehovah blessed them with a new family. In time, Ruth married Boaz, a prosperous landowner in Judah, and had a son named Obed, who became the grandfather of King David.—Ruth 4:13-22; Matthew 1:5, 6.
This spiritual factor puts friendship on a higher plane. How? In the case of Ruth and Naomi, both worshiped Jehovah, “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6) “God is love,” and if we sincerely worship him with spirit and truth, we are sure to grow in love for him and fellow creatures. (1 John 4:8; John 4:24) Thus, we change. We develop a friendly interest in others, especially the meek, suffering people of all races. Introverts thus become less self-centered. Selfish people develop concern for others. We begin to display the fruitage of God’s spirit—“love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Galatians 5:22, 23.
These qualities help us to develop the vital ability to forgive weaknesses and mistakes in others—“not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times,” as Jesus said. (Matthew 18:21, 22) Many friendships founder on this point. But Jesus Christ both preached and practiced this. How often he forgave his imperfect, fallible disciples for their errors, including even Peter’s shameful denial of the Lord!—Matthew 26:69-75.
As a result of all this spiritual development, our circle of friends grows. Eventually, we find that we belong to a vast, global family of friends! We also find that the general standard of our friends is much higher. For example, Brian, a fairly new worshiper of Jehovah, recalls that former friends got him involved in drinking and neglecting his wife and children. But now he is very devoted to his family. Concerning his many new friends with the same faith in Jehovah, he says: “If I have a problem, I know that I can pick up a phone and call any one of them, and they would be happy to help.”
Alan had friends whose conversation usually centered around cars and girls. But he found those topics “flat and empty” when he made many new friends, fellow lovers of Jehovah. They overwhelmed Alan by their “spontaneous, genuine, loving interest” in him.
Our Best Friends
All these individuals and millions more form a worldwide, nonpolitical family of friends that transcends national, racial, and social barriers—a true brotherhood of mankind, just like that of the early Christians. (3 John 14) The same bond that drew Ruth and Naomi together also unites this family, namely, pure worship of Jehovah God. All of them humbly and gratefully recognize that Jehovah and Jesus Christ are their best friends.
‘Almighty God and his Son as friends?’ you may wonder. ‘How is that possible? Is that not presumptuous?’ Well, the Bible says: “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, . . . and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” That certainly was undeserved kindness. Yet Jehovah’s Word says: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—James 2:23; 4:6.
Perhaps some feel too sinful for such a privilege. But James goes on to say: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones. Humble yourselves in the eyes of Jehovah, and he will exalt you.”—James 4:8, 10.
Jesus said: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.” He also pointed out that the greatest commandments are to ‘love Jehovah God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.’ (John 15:14; Matthew 22:37-40) If we do that, we will have many true friends. Moreover, we will thus qualify for another great privilege—everlasting life on a cleansed earth under God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 6:9, 10) As Jesus said: “His [Jehovah’s] commandment means everlasting life.”—John 12:50.
Will you allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to help you? As genuinely friendly people, they are willing to visit you and discuss this vital matter with you free of charge. They can assist you to make many true friends.
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Some Guidelines for True Friendship
Be selective about those with whom you associate.
Take a warm interest in others, and be a good listener.
Do things together—shared experiences strengthen friendship.
Be frank, open, and sincere at all times.
Show empathy and compassion when others are in trouble.
When friends make mistakes or upset you, be ready to forgive—even “up to seventy-seven times.”—Matthew 18:22.
When friends are slandered or unfairly criticized, be loyal and defend them.
Shared worship of Jehovah immeasurably strengthens friendship.
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Ruth would not abandon Naomi because their friendship had a solid spiritual basis. Do you have such true friends?