Relationships, whether family relationships, friendships, or romantic relationships bring us the greatest joy in life and also provide the greatest heartache and frustration. The complexity of relationships is that they are connections between people, who by our very nature are broken creatures. We mess up. We sin. We disappoint each other. We hurt feelings.
So if relationships are hard and people are screwed up—why do we crave connection with others? I believe it’s because that as humans, we were created to live in community, with friendships—particularly biblical friendships—serving as guardrails on the highway of life. They aren’t the road itself but they help keep us on the right path.
A few key benefits of friendships (or why we should have friends if having them is so hard):
Friendships keep us accountable
When I moved to New Orleans, I had to undertake the task of making new friends. My introverted self was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to find anyone to love me like my friends back home. However, once I put myself out there, became vulnerable and shared my heart, I was amazed at how easy it was to make new friends. I learned that in opening up to others and becoming friends, I was also opening myself up to accountability. Once you share your heart, your friends know the real you, and they can call you out when you don’t act in line with who they know you are. I’m grateful for friends, new and old, who know my heart and love me enough to keep me accountable to be the kind of person I am called to be.
Friendships show us our weakness
Admittedly, I struggle with having high expectations of my friends (some of which I don’t verbalize). Just reading about my own judgmental attitude is probably enough to make you want to reconsider being my friend. But there are a few who have been willing to wade through the murky waters of relationship with me. It is through these friendships, when I am able to see how my own thoughts, actions, and sinful nature, affect someone I care about, that I am most willing and able to change quickly.
Friendships encourage us
If relationships were all just about pointing out our flaws, we probably wouldn’t take the time to make them work. It would be too depressing. But although a friend might point out the fact that you have been rude or selfish in a given situation, that very same friend will often be there to help you be better. I have friends whose lives encourage and inspire me. They are great thinkers and cooks and writers and CPAs and moms. Just watching them encourages me to be better in all areas of my life. I have other friends who verbally affirm and lift me up in prayer. They speak His Life and Truth into my life. When I am feeling beat down and weary from hard seasons of life, I have friends I can count on to put an arm around me, pull me up from my pity, and walk beside me. For all these friends, I am grateful.
Take a minute today to thank a friend for being a faithful influence in your life. Apologize to a friend you may have hurt. Encourage a friend who is struggling. Go pursue a friendship you’ve been feeling led to. Don’t go through this life alone. Having someone by your side through the good times and the bad times makes the good times even sweeter and the bad times less bitter. I love Ecclesiastes 4:12, which points out that, “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” When we walk through life with others, even during the darkest of days, we will find we are much stronger together than we ever would have been alone.