I read this article recently and I could really relate to what it said. It hasn't quite been a year since I moved away from my life-long home. It's great to be married, and I do have a home with my husband; but I'm still lonely for women friends and the place where I had lived my life. Granted, three months out of the past year I was sick on the couch, and that sure decreases homesickness, loneliness, and in fact, all cognitive thought. But I've still had plenty of time to be lonely. It's made me think more than ever before on what makes a good friend, and I've boiled it down to these three points. Of course people have different ways to express caring; but for the most part I think these three go across the board as life habits that make for good friends.
Spending Time with People as a Relational Priority
Part one to this point is that meeting people is hard, and requires a lot of time. You must go through the work of introductions and learning basic get-to-know you stuff, and remember it. Then after hours of basic talking and many encounters can you move on to more substantial conversations. Meeting one person at a time while still having other friends isn't so hard- but having no friends and having to set up get-to-know-you foundations with all people you meet is draining. When I get down about being lonely it seems even harder- who has time for me? Who's available? How can I even find such a person? It takes conscious, prolonged effort to meet people, and it's a great ministry to make that effort towards new people.
Part two of this is that people today are too busy! There's someone I would like to have over for tea- but when she mentions she doesn't even have time to cook herself dinner at night, it makes me wonder if it's unkind asking for her time. I've been glad to meet a few of the other student wives here- but when they're working full time and the only free time they have is the weekend, neither of us want to give up the only time we really have with our husbands. Busyness of people's lives cut down on relationships. But what is more important? I'm not busy now; this past year has been the least busy for me since high school. But I still need the reminder that people are more important than a clean house or rest. I'm looking for friends who are willing to spend time with me.
Being a Listener and Conversationalist
In short, there are way to many talkative people in the world. Gift of gab? I don't think so. Being talkative is not a gift- it's a sign of selfishness. Being a good conversationalist is a gift. Everyone wants to be heard, but listening is something most people have to learn to do. Listening to someone is a true sign of caring. This is something we want to teach our children- having true friends involves having conversations; conversations involve both people taking turns talking and listening.
I want to be a good conversationalist- I need to get much better at asking questions. Unfortunately I've been blessed with a rather quiet voice, so listening isn't usually my problem; quite often people just don't hear what I'm saying so all I can do is listen!
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." -Phil 2:3
Being Friends with People of Different Ages
This was a pet peeve before I ever moved- public school has trained generations of women to only be friends with their age group. This pattern cripples Christian women who read the exhortation of Titus 2 and really desire to be that woman, but have a lifetime of friendships only with peers. I've had the opposite- in my adult life, getting married later and having a small church peer group, my close friends have been either those ten years younger, or those women ten years older who could look past the age difference. And I am so thankful for those few older women! I hope I turn out like them.