How You Can Make Friends
“ONE FRIEND IN A LIFETIME IS MUCH; TWO ARE MANY; THREE ARE HARDLY POSSIBLE.”—Henry Brooks Adams.
SUCH a remark suggests that true friends are rare. All too often comments such as “I have no one to turn to,” “I cannot trust anybody,” or “My dog is my best friend” are heard from very lonely people groping for friendship.
To make and maintain lasting friendships is a challenge. A market survey revealed that “in the United States 25 per cent of the adult population suffer ‘chronic loneliness’ and . . . in France half the people have experienced acute isolation.” The proliferation of dating clubs and computer chat rooms and the profusion of newspaper advertisements by those seeking companions indicate that people crave human contact.
Loneliness affects not only a person’s mental state but also his physical health, claims Dr. David Weeks, a neuropsychologist. “I have a very high proportion of patients with anxiety phobias and depression who could be described as lonely. There are connections between the severity of depression and the severity of loneliness.”
Divorce and the breakdown in family life doom more and more people to living life alone. A survey conducted in Britain concluded that by the beginning of the 21st century, as many as 30 percent of that nation’s population would be in one-person households.
The inspired Scriptures foretold that a spirit of selfishness would be prevalent in “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) It appears that many are more interested in material possessions, such as a house or a car, or in their jobs than in cultivating relationships with other humans. Observes author Anthony Storr: “Instead of being centred on spouse and children, their lives are based on the office.”
TRUE FRIENDS ARE PRICELESS
The quality of your life depends much on the quality of your friendships. Often those who live for self are not happy because they have no friend with whom to share their things or their thoughts. True are the words of Jesus Christ: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Echoing this truth, English poet George Byron wrote: “All who joy would win must share it.”
What is a friend? A dictionary defines a friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” A true friend can help direct your thoughts toward good things. He can encourage and build you up in times of need. He can even share your grief. King Solomon said: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) While material things often lose their value over time, true friendship grows and flourishes with time.
The Scriptures exhort Christians to “widen out” in their affections. (2 Corinthians 6:13) There is wisdom in reaching out to others. At Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2, we read: “Send out your bread upon the surface of the waters, for in the course of many days you will find it again. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what calamity will occur on the earth.” How does this principle apply to friendship? If you have cultivated friendships with many people, some of them may come to your aid when difficulties arise.
True friends are a protection for you in another way. “The wounds inflicted by a lover are faithful,” says Proverbs 27:6. Although any number of people may give you words of praise, only true friends will think enough of you to point out a serious fault and offer constructive counsel in a loving way.—Proverbs 28:23.
Good, intimate friends are among those rare gifts that can produce a positive influence on you. In Acts chapter 10, we read of an event in the life of Roman army officer Cornelius, who had been informed by an angel that his prayers had been heard. In expectation of the visit of the apostle Peter, Cornelius “called together his relatives and intimate friends.” Those close friends of Cornelius were among the first uncircumcised Gentiles to embrace the good news and be anointed by the holy spirit, with the prospect of ruling with Christ in God’s Kingdom. What a blessing for Cornelius’ intimate friends!—Acts 10:24, 44.
How, though, can you go about making friends? The Bible, which has much to say about friendship, answers with practical advice. (See box below.)
WHERE YOU CAN MAKE TRUE FRIENDS
The best place to make true friends is in connection with the Christian congregation. First of all, you can avail yourself of the opportunity to make friends with Jehovah, your Creator and heavenly Father, and with Jesus Christ, your Savior. “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends,” said Jesus, who invites you to be his friend. (John 15:13, 15) By making friends with Jehovah and Jesus Christ, you can be assured that they will “receive you into the everlasting dwelling places.” Yes, friendship with Jehovah and Jesus means everlasting life.—Luke 16:9; John 17:3.
How can you gain their warm friendship? The requirements for being a guest in Jehovah’s tent as one of his friends are outlined in Psalm 15. Look it up in the Bible, and read the five verses of that psalm. Additionally, Jesus Christ said: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 15:14.
Yes, by conscientiously studying and applying the direction from God’s Word, the Bible, you show that you want to be a friend of Jehovah and Jesus. To this end, you must also regularly attend Christian meetings, where knowledge of Jehovah God is imparted. Faithfully apply yourself to listening to Jehovah, and you will draw closer to him and his Son.
At the meetings you can also get acquainted with individuals who love Jehovah and manifest the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control—in their life. (Galatians 5:22, 23) If you are serious about making friends and banishing loneliness, attend Christian meetings every week. Doing so puts you in the right place at the right time to cultivate lasting friendship with God’s blessed people.
True friendship is a wonderful gift from Jehovah God. It stems from his own personality and makeup. Because of his loving and generous spirit, he has filled the earth with intelligent creatures with whom you can develop friendship. Associate with fellow Christians. Encourage them. Work with them in the ministry. Pray with and for them regularly. Then you will be imitating Jehovah and his Son, Jesus Christ.
Friendship is a gift everyone is able to give and to receive. In the near future, you will have the opportunity to widen out your circle of friends. You can make friends with millions now living, as well as with those from past generations who are sleeping in death, awaiting the resurrection when “death will be no more.” (Revelation 21:4; John 5:28, 29) Make the effort now to be friendly, and make friends with those who love Jehovah. Pursue friendship with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ by listening to God’s inspired Word. Then, for all eternity, you will never be lonely again.
[Box/Pictures on page 22, 23]
SIX STEPS TO A LASTING FRIENDSHIP
1. BE A FRIEND. Abraham was called “Jehovah’s friend” because of his unwavering faith. (James 2:23) But there was an additional reason. The Bible says that Abraham demonstrated his affection for God. (2 Chronicles 20:7) He took the initiative and let his feelings be known to Jehovah. (Genesis 18:20-33) Yes, it takes initiative to offer proof of your friendship. Jesus said: “Practice giving, and people will give to you.” (Luke 6:38) A word of encouragement or a helping hand may be the seed from which a great friendship will grow. American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
2. MAKE TIME TO CULTIVATE A FRIENDSHIP. Most people desire the benefits of friendship. Yet, they are too busy to invest the necessary time. Romans 12:15, 16 encourages us to share the happiness and success, the sorrows and disappointments, of others. It says: “Rejoice with people who rejoice; weep with people who weep. Be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves.” Jesus Christ, though a busy man, always took time for his friends. (Mark 6:31-34) Remember, friendship, like a flowering plant, needs to be watered and nurtured for it to blossom—and that takes time.
3. PAY ATTENTION WHEN OTHERS TALK. Good, attentive listeners often find it easier to have friends. “Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking,” says the disciple James. (James 1:19) When you converse with others, show personal interest in their feelings. Encourage them to talk about themselves. Take the lead in displaying honor to them. (Romans 12:10) Then they will want to be with you. Conversely, if you monopolize every conversation, or constantly put yourself in the limelight, you will have a hard time finding someone who is ready to listen or who cares about your feelings and needs.
4. BE FORGIVING. Jesus once told Peter to be ready to forgive “up to seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21, 22) A true friend is quick to overlook minor failings. To illustrate: Some do not like eating raspberries because of their little seeds. Those who enjoy this fruit, however, do not notice the seeds. True friends are loved for their fine qualities; their minor faults are overlooked. Paul exhorted us: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.” (Colossians 3:13) Those who learn to be forgiving keep their friends.
5. RESPECT THE PRIVACY OF OTHERS. Everyone needs some privacy, including your friends. Proverbs 25:17 wisely observes: “Make your foot rare at the house of your fellowman, that he may not have his sufficiency of you and certainly hate you.” Hence, be reasonable about the frequency and length of visits with friends. Avoid possessiveness, which can lead to jealousy. Use good judgment when expressing personal tastes and opinions on matters. This contributes to a refreshing and welcome friendship.
6. BE GENEROUS. Friendships are cultivated through generosity. The apostle Paul’s advice is to “be liberal, ready to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18) For instance, share encouraging words with others. (Proverbs 11:25) Be free with sincere commendation and upbuilding speech. When you show genuine interest in the well-being of others, they are drawn to you. Think about what you can do for them instead of focusing on what they can do for you.