What Makes A Good Friend?

What makes a good friend? I’m guessing you drew some conclusions about what this post is going to be about based on the title. And I’m also guessing you’d probably be wrong (no offense). This is not a warm-and-fuzzy post about those friends that stick with you through thick and thin (although that would be a good post); nor is it a nostalgic post about my best friend now or in the past. Instead, I want to look at what exactly constitutes “a good friend.”

First, let me tell you what prompted this post. I heard a young gal moaning the other day about how she didn’t fit in with a certain group of people. I knew the people she was talking about, and I knew how badly she needed to fit in. It was obvious that the  reason she did not “fit in” was the fact that she simply felt intimidated around them. It wasn’t a matter of them being rude or snooty; they were anything but that! But her insecurities were rising to the surface, and I could tell that she was considering reverting to her “comfort zone”—which would send her ten steps backwards in her personal growth and most likely into a lifestyle of low-level living, possibly even prison. I so wanted to give her a pep talk and tell her to hang in there, to paint a picture of how her life could be so different if she would just press past this temporary discomfort of not fitting in. Though it might be difficult for a season, in a short while, she would be comfortable, but more importantly, she would be better, because she would have grown to a new level in her personal development.

I wanted to tell her all that stuff, but I couldn’t. So I decided to write this post and tell you instead.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, I think we generally choose our friends based on how similar they are to us —people whom we have a lot in common with. I wonder if we shouldn’t tweak our “friend criteria” to include people we want to have a lot in common with. In other words, how about looking for friends that have the qualities we wish we had? I know; it would be uncomfortable at first. Not because said people are hard to be around but because we might feel intimidated by them, like we don’t measure up. Just that fear of not fitting in is usually enough to dissuade people from moving beyond their current sphere.

My husband, Steve, told me about his experience playing intramural basketball in college. He played on the basketball team in high school, but he he was very average. In college, the caliber of the guys he was playing with was far superior to his high school team, and he played with them several times a week. When he went home for Christmas break, he and some of his high school buddies got together and he—and they—were shocked at how much he had improved. He hadn’t realized it until he was placed in his old context, but the strength, the talent of the college context had pulled him to a far higher level of basketball playing.

I’m sure he felt out of his element when he first started playing with the college guys, but he hung in there, and without even realizing it, his skill level rose significantly. Pretty soon, he wasn’t so intimidated any more. Actually, he probably didn’t even realize his mental shift, that he was no longer intimidated. He just enjoyed playing.

I had a similar experience several months after I started running. Some young friends and I were getting together on the weekends to do our “long runs.” We would meet at various parks in town and run the different trails. Then several of us signed up for a race that took place around the university, so we met there one weekend to run the race course and get familiar with it. The course had some pretty intense hills. I had memorized the route, so I started off in the lead. When we got to the steepest hill, I started to lose steam, and my entourage passed me (with my blessing, I might add; I didn’t want anyone saying “the old lady” held them back!). They got further and further ahead of me, but I managed to keep them in my sight. I had a specific distance that I wanted to run that day, and I was just shy of that when I reached the parking lot where we had all parked. As I approached my car, some of the girls were already leaving, but one of them rejoined me, and we ran the perimeter of the parking lot as my Runkeeper app continued to tally our distance. I reached the mileage that I was aiming for, and we did some stretching together and then parted.

When I got home, I recorded my distance and my pace, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had just run my best pace ever! Do you see where I’m going with this? I could have gotten discouraged and quit when my fellow runners passed me. Instead, I kept trucking, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I was trucking faster than my normal. As for the girl that finished with me in the parking lot, she posted on Facebook later that day that she had run her farthest-ever distance that morning. Would that have been true if she hadn’t finished with me? I don’t think so. Would I have run my fastest pace if I had been running alone? Or with a group that ran like me? I know I wouldn’t have.

The point to these two stories, of course, is that the more out of place we may feel in a certain group of people due to insecurity, the more we need to be with them. If we will persevere past the discomfort, our personal development will accelerate. Pretty soon, we’ll be “one of the guys” (or gals; whichever the case may be).

All this is a long way of saying what the Bible states very succinctly: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Pro 13:20).

In answer to the title of this post, what makes a good friend, it is not necessarily someone who agrees with everything you think or do, someone who you have a lot in common with, someone who you get along with. The best of friends are those who motivate you to be the best you, who inspire you to stretch upwards and outwards beyond your current status, who cause you to become better just by being around them. Yes, we all need friends to “do stuff” with, but the very best of friends are those who provoke us to a new and higher standard.

I’d be interested in hearing your take on this concept. Do you have friends that “provoke” you—in the good way? Tell me about him or her in the comments.

Photo compliments of Janine via Compfight

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9 Responses to What Makes A Good Friend?

  1. Debs Ridgewell says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog and find it a topic close to my heart. I love making friends and growing with women I aspire to be like. I find their company stretches me, changes me and develops me in ways I never would have without their friendship.

    • Diane says:

      Hi Debs, I am so glad you are enjoying the blog. I like writing it! 🙂
      You are so right–you are growing in ways you never could have without the women around you. As you “take in,” you’ll become a woman who can also “give out.” In fact, I bet you’re already giving out.
      Thanks so much for commenting. It’s good to see you on here.

  2. Hannah Remington says:

    Diane,

    I really enjoyed this post. I am dealing with similar things with building relationships with people who surround me on a day to day basis. Since I work at the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce, I have had to get out of my “box” and learn how to communicate with people from all aspects of life. I have to go to mixers, banquets, open houses, and many community events in which I find it challenging to act “natural”. It is such a good reminder that as I interact and put myself out there, I will eventually get better at it and not feel so “out of place”. I can easily call myself a “youth” and put myself in a different category as the “big business people” I interact with. I am determined to conquer the “awkward” feeling and know I have a place to speak, even if I don’t know everything about business or the corporate world. Thanks for the post and expanding my view on the benefits of engaging with people.

    • Diane says:

      Hannah, Great take on the article. You are privileged to get to be around successful people in your job. Learn all that you can but know that you have much to offer, as well. There’s more than one kind of “success.” 🙂

  3. Debbie says:

    Diane, I enjoyed this so much!!! And yes, I do have a friend like that, one who provokes me to be the best “me”. Meet my friend, Diane!

    • Diane says:

      Debbie, What a sweet comment! Thank you so much! And RIGHT BACK AT YOU (everything except the “Diane” part; replace that with “Debbie”). Love you!

  4. Makesi says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and agree with every word you said! ‘Easy’ friendships don’t build you, it doesn’t push you to become a better person.

    I married my best friend, and she continues to make me better every day.

  5. Esme Cassidy says:

    HI Diane
    I having been reading every post and everything has just given me such a lift and more sight and Im definitely taking on 30 day challenges few at a the same time I have actually made paper chains thirty links on a chain every day will be marked with a color.
    I just want to refer to the mention of finding friends who would help you achieve levels they have which I would want the problem is how do I get around getting them to be my friends because some people of a higher stature will be our brothers and sisters in Christ but not want to be social friends I am in CWBN so this could be a sensitive issue.
    I am loving everything it is helping me so much just in 2 days I can feel how my spirit is ready to go to new heights,and also just to mention regarding momentum you know when that train is at full speed there is no more effort in its journey in fact I think it can pick up a speed that could send us right into eternity catch what im saying just i i saw the whole thing in my mind actually happening.
    Thanks for everything.

I love to read your comments!