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Seven Marks of Authentic Friendship

Seven Marks of Authentic Friendship


It seems to me that ever since we’ve started using “friend” as a verb, the concept itself has changed. It’s become more casual and fluid; less personal. There are on-line friends and friends IRL (in real life). Sometimes they overlap, often they don’t. 

The definition of “friend” may have changed, but after spending this past weekend with a dear, long-term friend, I am reminded that friendships - the genuine, deep kind - are as desirable as ever, perhaps more so as social media flattens out and redefines how we relate to each other. 

Paulette and I share a unique history that goes back 30 years. Time and distance conspire now to keep us apart but when we connect, even though it necessarily involves airplanes and major schedule adjustments, it’s always worth it. 

She and I chose a career in Federal law enforcement at a time when earning the respect of our peers in a male-dominated profession meant embracing an over-the-top work ethic and developing a very “thick hide”. That experience cultivated a unique bond, in and of itself. 

We were pregnant together and shared the unique travails reserved for expectant mothers in that kind of job. We raised our children in a world we viewed through a particular lens of danger and did our best to make their lives “normal”.

Early on in our friendship, we discovered we had more than just our careers in common. We were both pastors’ kids, having grown up in that rarefied air that tends to produce prodigals. We each had wandered as young adults, but found our way back. The faith we had been imbued with as kids was too deep to be abandoned for long. We ultimately claimed it fully as our own.

Over the years, we’ve commiserated, celebrated, and confided a lot. Paulette knows truths about me I’ve not shared with another soul. The friendship we share means when we are together, I can relax with her in ways I can’t with anyone else. She is able to put things in perspective with the rest of what’s true about me and see the whole picture of who I am. She doesn’t judge me, nor I her.

Since she left on Sunday, I’ve been reflecting on how life-giving it is have such a friend. In contemplating what it is that makes a relationship like this so special, seven things come to mind.

An authentic friend:

1. Guards confidences.

When you entrust something deeply personal to another person, it’s not theirs to give away without your agreement. An authentic friend knows this and values your privacy.

2. Validates your experience.

Life wears on us. Having someone who can relate to what you’ve been through lets you know you’re not alone (and you didn’t imagine it).

3. Keeps their word.

If they say they will support you in something or they promise to be in your corner, you can count on that to be true. Every time.

4. Tells the truth.

You can trust that a true friend will be honest with you, even when it’s hard or, well, not what you want to hear. They care too much about you to let you fall if there’s something they can to do prevent it.

5. Forgives your blunders.

Let’s face it, who hasn’t let someone you care about down or hurt them in some way? There’s great comfort in knowing your commitment to each other is solid enough to endure.

6. Doesn’t judge.

Maybe their reaction to the same situation you faced was, or would have been, different, but they don’t presume failure or inferiority on your part.

7. Shares your faith.

The best friends of all are the ones who understand and have appropriated the same love for God and trust in Christ you have. They "get it" because they’ve got it.

I’m blessed beyond measure to have a number of authentic friends in my life, people who know me well and love me anyway. As I look at this list, I recognize another who calls me friend, one who defines friendship in the best possible way:

In John 15:15, Jesus says, “I have called you friends”.

He protects and validates me, always keeps His word, only tells the truth, will never leave me, forgives my sins, and took upon Himself the judgement I deserve. He’s the source of my faith…and the best definition of a perfect Friend.

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