When it comes to relationships in life, we soon learn that no two are the same. Yes, we all need them, but if we’re not intentional about them, we could set ourselves up to face lonely days.
It may come as a surprise, but relationships in and of themselves are not intrinsically good, just as they are not automatically close.
More than that, recognising that different relationships should carry different expectations can help us enjoy the diversity they bring to our lives.
For example, if we place high expectations on casual relationships, we could face disappointment and frustration, maybe even feelings of “no one cares.”
However, there is great freedom and wisdom in aligning your expectation with the type of relationship you are in and appreciating that diversity.
What does relational diversity look like?
There are those casual encounters, people we meet as a consequence of sharing a common interest, or attending the same parties, cafes or riding the same trains. They are people you may only meet once, those who you are friendly with, but who never cross over to becoming more than that. It’s friendliness that just makes life a little easier by a sense of mutual respect. You may go to the same parties but it is unlikely you would open up to them about how you are really going.
Then there are relationships that seem to happen by default. These are social friendships, they are useful and pleasurable and probably the most common. They don’t take a lot of effort because you are in each other’s worlds, whether at work, you live on the same street, share the same classes, attend the same Church, or you have kids in the same school.
Both of those types of relationships (casual and social) are good, great even, however, I believe they are also inadequate.
Why? Because they are circumstantial. Circumstances change and they change. If you leave your job, you move house, you stop playing that sport, then the common denominator is no longer an adhesive force. These types of relationships can come and go, appear and disappear, regularly through life’s journey.
That’s why we need something better. It’s this third type of relationship that many of us fail to build intentionally into our lives. It’s real, raw, no-matter-what friendship.
It’s the friend who walks in when others walk out. Do you have those friends in your life? And how do we ensure those relationships are healthy and strong?
I believe Proverbs 18:24 holds the key when it says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, BUT there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (emphasis added)
Firstly, this proverb tells me that we need to be friendly. This could be defined as the casual or social relationships. And that is where many relationships stay. But, this proverb goes onto say that there is something even better than that.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it describes a friend who sticks closer than a brother. In other words, a friend who is loyal.
Loyalty means that you can’t spread yourself so thin in “friendliness” that you don’t have the capacity to be a true friend to a few.
This type of loyal relationship survives through all types of twists and turns, the highs and lows in life. It’s a friendship that is not momentary or passing but is anchored and long-lasting. Ultimately, it is anchored by honour, honesty, integrity and goodness.
You can be this type of friend by:
- loving at all times
- inspiring your friend to think bigger
- giving your best for them
- encouraging, or “putting courage in”
- letting them know you are with them
- standing with them through life’s challenges
- being uncomplicated and “user friendly”
- appreciating their uniqueness
- being quick to forgive
- listening and understanding
If you’re given to jealousy, fear, insecurity, intolerance, apathy, anger, possessiveness or selfishness, then enjoying real friendship may be difficult.
But, when you know what real friendship looks like and nurture it, then you can be sure of the fact that no matter what you face, life will be better together!