What makes a valued friend? I looked to see what other bloggers had to say on the subject. Here are some of the most popular answers.
- Willing to forgive and not hold grudges
- Will listen and tries to understand you
- There when you need them
- Respects you and others
- Accepts you for who you are and doesn’t try to change you
- Willing to call you out when you’re doing something wrong
- Encourages you
- Patient with us
- Has a sense of humor
- Humble and doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
Would you add anything else?
If you asked what makes a good co-worker, employee, employer, or parent, some answers would change, but many of them would be the same. We identify characteristics like honesty, faithfulness, generosity, patience, understanding, caring, compassion, respect, etc. as virtues—habitual and firm dispositions to do the good.
We universally recognize and prefer virtuous behavior from others. How many people do you know who would gravitate toward a friend who is unkind, selfish, disrespectful, impatient, prideful, and unwilling to forgive; lies, blames others, holds grudges, puts you down, and doesn’t care about you or anybody else?
Integrated and Whole
What if your friend treated other people poorly but seemed to act OK toward you?
You probably would wonder what was going on. Perhaps we could justify some actions, but recurrent patterns of dishonesty, hatred, bitterness, and cruelty should raise concerns. If our friend could flip their behaviors so easily, it would seem only a matter a time before the thin veneer of benevolence toward us would break down.
Much of our behavior is habitual. We would accomplish little if we had to think about every move we made. We would slip in and out of honesty and dishonesty, loyalty and disloyalty, etc. with such ease that we would be a nightmare to have as a friend.
To have integrity means to be whole and undivided. What you see is what you get, without hidden motives and power plays. A person of integrity will act virtuously toward everyone, even when the other person doesn’t deserve it.
Our culture has some harsh terms for those without integrity: hypocrites, fakes, two-timers, traitors, cheaters, and back-stabbers.
Our ideal friend would ideally not only be virtuous but would also be integrated and consistent.
Making It Personal
But what about us? Would it not be disingenuous to expect other people to behave well toward us while we give ourselves a pass? Doesn’t it matter that both sides display relationally-sensitive virtues if they want to have the healthiest relationship? Everyone has faults, so we don’t expect others to be perfect. But shouldn’t we want to be the best we can be? Would that not be the most loving and caring response toward our friend—that we would try to become the kind of person we expect others to be for us?
Moral decisions are ones where we choose between a right and a wrong; between good and evil.
A popular notion today says that there is no absolute truth; that everyone defines their own morality; that the only moral absolute is that we should treat everyone with tolerance.
If that were true in relationships, there would be no such thing as an ideal friend or virtue, for these require preferred attitudes and behaviors that lead to healthy relationships and avoiding destructive qualities. Thank goodness, people who espouse moral relativism don’t always practice it when it comes to how they connect with others.
What would it be like if you only tolerated your friend or your spouse? How well would that work for a healthy relationship? Should a bland and almost nauseating tolerance of those closest to us be our ideal? No way! We want those nearest to us to love us, and we should love them as well.
If virtue is so critical to healthy relationships, then why is it we spend so much energy trying to build up our children’s self-esteem and ensure their material success? Could it be that a cultural denial of virtue has led us to create cheap substitutes?
I frequently hear people express a false view of Christian morality. They see Christianity as equivalent to a set of oppressive rules that lead to excessive guilt and judgmental behavior. Instead, Jesus Christ showed us not only the happiest and healthiest way to live and form relationships, but he also gives the means to realize it.
Some Questions to Consider
Let’s review and reflect.
- There is A DEFINITE WAY that will make us happier and help us form the healthiest relationships.
- What do you need to work on to become the best kind of friend to others?
- We maximize our happiness and health in relationships to the extent we are morally integrated and whole, rather than dis-integrated and fragmented.
- Have you shown this kind of integration? Are you a person of integrity? If not, what will you do about it?
- Jesus Christ not only showed us the healthiest way to live but that through the Holy Spirit, He helps us to become the healthiest version of ourselves, even when it lies beyond our limited abilities. While one can practice Christian principles and benefit from them without ever becoming a Christian, to know and follow Christ as his disciple is THE WAY to become the healthiest version of ourselves.
- Do you have a relationship with Jesus and are you actively following him as his disciple?
- Parents should give top priority to loving their children and helping them to develop virtues. Healthy self-concept and life success will more surely follow these than emphasizing self-esteem and material wealth as primary goals.
- If you’re a parent, what are you seeking for your children? Do you need to realign your priorities?
The Ideal Friend is part of an ongoing series on developing healthy relationships and the Christian faith.