It is a fact: we are hard-wired for relationships. We need friends, and we need community. It is no secret though, growing in friendship takes time and effort. Friendship is a topic we talk about all the time, but how exactly do we recognize when a friendship is going sour or even the joys and challenges in friendship? How do we identify when friends are not good friends? Below I have composed a list of what real friends do and don’t do…
A real friend does not only talk about themselves. A real friend cares about you and cares about how you are doing. Friends only concerned with themselves or pushing their own agenda are not real friends. True friendship is reciprocal. St Teresa of Jesus said, “True friendship consists in mutually perfecting one another and drawing closer to God.”
A real friend is invested, intentional and makes time for others.
A real friend does not gossip. A real friend helps us and reminds us to live in truth. Think about your conversations with friends. If the main topic with friends is centered around gossip or talking negatively about others, chances are those negative conversations take place without you there as well. This is a huge problem because not only are we hurting others with our words, but we are also not growing as we are not addressing issues inside ourselves. In 2018, Pope Francis addressed St. Peter’s square, saying, “Gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person! It is so terrible to gossip…in the end, it fills the heart with bitterness, and even poisons us.” Scripture goes on to say, “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend” (Proverbs 22:8). A real friend helps us reminds us to live in truth.
A real friend does not discourage you from your goals. A real friend supports you in your pursuit of excellence. If your friends try to distract you from your goals, they are not your real friend. Note: this is a different story if your goals are not good. A real friend will journey with you, support you, help you live the virtues, and ultimately walk with you to Heaven.
A real friend does not judge you. A real friend is honest and encouraging. If your friend is constantly judging you, pointing out your flaws, and making you feel bad about yourself – then they really are not your friend. Some people, unfortunately, like to bring others down. A real friend should make you feel positive, empowered, and uplifted. Friends should also challenge you, but with and through love. It is important to note – judging is different than challenging. Again, in friendship, challenging each other is actually good because we lift each other up and challenge to do their best.
A real friend does not betray your trust. A real friend is trustworthy. Toxic friends betray trust and share things that were supposed to be held in confidence. If a friend betrays your trust in a major way, you don’t necessarily have to mend the relationship. A good friend has self-control and cares about your heart and what you share. Trust is essential in a good friendship.
A real friend does not hold grudges. A real friend forgives. Real friends don’t hold grudges! They don’t constantly remind you of something that happened in the past that was or was not your fault. One of the key components of healthy relationships is forgiveness. We are all human, so inevitably, we will make mistakes. In friendship, though, it is the ability to recognize and acknowledge our mistakes, apologize, and forgive each other so that we find a way forward.
A real friend does not get jealous or make everything a competition. A real friend cheers for you and is on your team. Don’t get me wrong, competition is fine; however, friendship based on competitive behavior is never healthy. Your main goal in friendship should not be to one-up your friend. If you feel like your friend never has anything nice to say when you achieve something, it’s a sign they see you as a rivalry, not a friend. It is unhealthy to have the mentality, “If my friend is winning, then I am losing.” Real friends acknowledge that God is calling all of us to greatness, and thus they should encourage you on your faith journey. Your friends should be your biggest fans and greatest supporters. A real friend will want to see you succeed, to see you be happy, and desire Heaven for you.
A real friend does not constantly belittle you. A real friend shares joy. If your friends are continually insulting you, they are not your real friends, and that negativity should not be welcomed in your life. A real friend lifts you up and encourages you, not puts you down and makes you feel small.
One of the greatest joys in life is the gift of real friends. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” All of us desire to experience true, authentic, life-giving friendship in our lives. It is worth the effort to invest in these relationships. Real and authentic friendship should always point the other to God.