“To live a life alone with God does not mean that we live it apart from everyone else. The connection between godly men and women and those associated with them is continually revealed in the Bible….”
~ Oswald Chambers

We talk a lot about friendship on (in)courage–the need for it, hurting from a void of it, healing from the ministry of it and sometimes to offer advice for the care and keeping of it.

Maybe it’s a silly thing to bring attention to, but did anyone else happen to notice that in(RL) ~ a celebration of friendship and community ~ is the same month as Easter this year?  Within weeks of ~

remembering the sacrifice, torture and murder of the King of Kings…

rejoicing in our forgiveness, redemption and salvation…

exalting in his Resurrected Life and Glory, the means to which gives us new life…eternal life…real life

we’ll gather together as sisters to celebrate the joys of friendship in real life.

“Real life” always means something that matters, doesn’t it?

Having been plucked out of my comfort zone to land in a place that has taken a while to regain my equilibrium, God has me in a position to listen and learn.  I’m thrilling to this experience of new country and culture, but I’m equally thankful to see personal things I’ve been missing for years.  God is gently revealing my blindspots; change is unavoidable.

I’m learning to appreciate the women in my life in new ways.

Don’t miss that key wordappreciate.  It is much too easy to take for granted those you love; I’m challenged to become more intentional in expressing my appreciation to others.

One of the best ways I can think of to actionize my appreciation (OH YES I just made up a word!  Bam!) is by initiating acts of friendship. Don’t we all appreciate it when someone else is the first one to extend a gesture of friendship?   So I’m asking you to join me in getting better at being the one to initiate. Especially because that person you’re thinking about doing something for is possibly desperately needing you to reach out.

Are you willing to be the one to BE the one?

Here are a few ideas to get you started; I’d love to hear your suggestions for how we can practically speak friendship and love into the lives of those very real people in our lives!

22 Acts of Friendship

  1. Start with yourself. It isn’t irony that prompts me to encourage self evaluation; discovering more about how and why I’ve related to others the way I do is the first step to me addressing my blind spots and becoming the better friend I’d like to become.
  2. Pray.  While I don’t want to over-spiritualize practicality, praying is also first-step friendship initiation.  Prayer should be two-fold:  asking God to give you a sensitive heart, communion with Him to heal your own wounds, and discernment to pursue healthy friendships; and seeking God to have the eyes to see those who need your friendship and to prepare their hearts to receive it.
  3. Forgive.  If you’re holding a grudge or have become embittered towards a friend, you do not have a choice; you must extend forgiveness. With both hands clutched tightly to Christ, believe more than He can heal your shattered pieces; trust that He can redeem and restore what was broken and lost.  Dear lovie, there is always something good you can take away from painful circumstance.  It will make you a better friend to others if you let it.
  4. Be persistent.  When you take the bold step to initiate friendship, rejection can be hard; don’t let it hinder you from trying again.  Yes, while you might become “the one who always initiates,” you might be the only person willing to pursue someone who needs pursuing.  And sometimes she’s the last person you suspect needs pursuing….
  5. Extend grace. When you consider the incomprehensible sacrifice that God extends to his children through Jesus, it seems reasonable that we should lavish grace on one another.  Imagine how your relationships might change if you give the benefit of doubt rather than suspect the worst?
  6. Show up when you know there’s a need. One of the most indelible acts of friendship in my life arrived on my doorstep.  With our impending out-of-state move looming, Michelle showed up with cleaning supplies in hand.  When I answered her knock, “Put me to work” were the first words out of her mouth. That was so much better than a vague “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
  7. Pick up the phone and call. Never have we been more connected, yet paradoxically, increasingly isolated.  Do not email or text or even Skype–just call!  You’ll be a rarity among your friends and your voice (i.e. your interest, effort, intention) will register as important to the receiver.
  8. Mail snails.  You know how you feel when you receive a pretty “thinking of you” card or note instead of junk mail or bills?  Imagine committing to sending one out a week; at the end of the year, 52 people would have been encouraged by your thought.  Always act on that prompt!  One time I received a letter from someone I hadn’t seen in years, and it was a life-giving answer to prayer.
  9. Shower your friends with surcies or little love gifts.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to give a small but meaningful gift; my favorite example to explain this concept is when my college roommate bought me the good, soft tissues when I had a cold and was using dorm toilet paper to blow my nose.  Her thoughtfulness spoke love so deeply I’ve remembered the gesture for decades.  Shocking is the beauty in a roadside bouquet of (free) wildflowers! (Thank you, God.)  Thoughtfulness is always the gift.
  10. Babysit for free.  If you know someone who needs a break, give 2-3 hours so they can run errands, see a movie, walk in the park without wiping noses or behinds or tying shoes!
  11. Be fully present.  When you’re together, leave your phone behind.  If that isn’t practical (i.e., your children’s school might call), resist the urge to do anything related to social media.
  12. Listen actively.  This, in part, goes with #11, but rather than anticipate your response let your friend speak until they’re done.  If you pay attention you’ll notice how often people cut one another off mid-sentence.
  13. Double a recipe.  Whether your baking cookies, simmering soup or making a casserole, be intentional about making enough to share every once in a while.  Then phone a friend, tell them you were thinking about her, and drop it off.  We often do a great job of preparing meals in time of need, but why not do so “just because”?
  14. Drop in for a quick visit. Now, before you strike this one off your list, give it a chance (~smile~).  If you’re in a friend’s neighborhood, why don’t you throw caution to the wind, knock on her door, hug her neck, and tell her you were just thinking about her.  If she invites you in, great; if she doesn’t, her house is probably a disaster zone (which all most of us have experienced before).  Assure her you aren’t staying but you wanted to let her know how you felt.  It will leave a loving impression.
  15. Trade shoes. When you find yourself making judgments against or frustrated with a friend’s actions, train yourself to consider what prompted her choices.  Remember, you only know part of her story, she’s likely a master at hiding her pain.
  16. Tell the truth.  Be the friend who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.  I can receive constructive criticism if it’s shrouded in love and I KNOW the person cares enough about me to say hard things.
  17. Bite your tongue.  Stop gossiping about others behind their backs unless it’s to praise their walk, their works or their womanhood.  Make your goal to be the person whom it can be said of, “I’ve never heard her talking about anyone else.”
  18. Don’t take it personally.  Seek and develop healthy friendships that allow room for dissenting opinions.  I recently joined others in a spirited but respectful conversation about a very controversial topic; I left the conversation unmoved in my position but having high regard for those who offered an intelligent, mature discussion on the matter.
  19. Look for middle ground. Wonderful advice offered to me years ago from a pastor’s wife has helped me time and time again: When you find yourself in the center of a “fight,” even if you’re certain you’re “right,” realize there’s your side of the story, there’s her side of the story…and the truth lies somewhere in between.
  20. Sharpen.  Be intentional about becoming a Proverbs 27:17 friend.
  21. Set a standard.  Goodness–if we all lived Ephesians 4:29-32, we’d all truly be THE BFF!
  22. Support.  When my father passed away a few years ago, I was deeply touched by those who traveled hours to attend his funeral, people who never met him but loved me.  At my daughter’s high school graduation, I couldn’t believe the friends who came to a party we hosted for her.  It taught me to support my friends by attending the important events in their lives…the good and the not so good.

I could keep going but I’m interested in hearing from you!  Would you share a specific example of a sweet friendship gesture that was unexpectedly extended to you?   I’d love to hear your practical suggestions to add to this list.

Tomorrow we celebrate real life in the victory of our King. As I end this love letter to you, I’m praying specifically for you to find hope and healing only in Him, and then to share the love that pours forth to the people He brings into your life.

Dare to be the one to BE the one!

With love from Robin, who day by day is learning to be a better friend. Happy Easter!

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  1. 1

    Great post, Robin! I find I am blessed as much if not more by being a friend. Your list is a wonderful bed of seeds from which other ideas will sprout. One outreach I’ve used is sending texts. I’ve always had an aversion to texting, but was forced into it when my boys got cell phones. Now I find it a super quick way to share a little love and encouragement to them, other family, and friends. Texting should never take the place of in-person or a handwritten note, but it’s easy, free, and says “You’re important to me.” Have a blessed Easter.

    • 2

      “…wonderful bed of seeds from which other ideas will sprout…” Yes! I hope so!!

      And I agree about texting; as a mom of older teens, it’s sometimes the best way to reach my kids; and it means a lot when I receive a love note I didn’t expect that way. But also wise of you to point out not to take the place of better ways to say ILY xo :) .

      • 3

        By Best friend knows that I am hurting with joint pain… He knows of a specific cream that works and has mailed me tubes of this cream before… this past Friday.. he brought me the cream and spent the whole day with me and my family…. I had the best time… I can’t remember having a better weekend all year…. Truly the gift of time in a friendship is tops!!

  2. 4

    Thank you for these great suggestions, Robin. I am finding them especially helpful to me in a new role in my life–being a grandmother…and as I am now seeing my daughter as my friend, your post will be one to which I will return, I am sure…this is the blog I wrote today regarding what I am grateful for this Easter…
    http://bethwillismiller.blogspot.com/2012/04/in-everythinggive-thanks.html

  3. 6

    Loved your post! Great reminders and ideas, thank you!

  4. 8

    Yes, yes, yes! It’s good to have other reach out to us AND to BE the one to reach out to others! Your list reminded me of last fall when my dad fell and broke his hip — we learned several great lessons and I shared them here (http://wp.me/p1Ut5W-3e). One of the key things we learned was “Pay attention: some classic line will emerge.” Friendship is like that too! There are certain phrases that can communicate so much more than those simple words! Amy

    • 9

      Amy,

      How wonderful that you’ve learned how to see purpose even in the hardest of times; paying attention is so key toward that end. Great reminder.

  5. 10

    My wonderful friend and her daughters invited me for an Incredible week-end away to an awesome resort. It included my very massage & spa experience, first time playing laser tag, first time hiking for almost ten miles, & my first horse back ride. This family has touched my family so very much in this incredibly difficult past year and a half of our lives =]

  6. 12

    Oh my stars, Robin. This list is marvelous. Simple, beautiful ideas to show a little love and just maybe begin a genuine, kindred-spirit friendship. I love your heart, your words, Y*O*U! Happy Easter, dear friend.

    • 13

      Kristen,

      :-) Ooops, you did it again–blessed my bunny slippers off!

      “genuine, kindred-spirirt friendship” is my favorite.

      xo

  7. 14
    Carmen says:

    God knows just what we need…thank you so much for this *beautiful* post, Robyn! It spoke volumes to my heart, and I am so convicted to act on it. Blessings to you and your this Easter!!

  8. 15

    Carmen,

    Acting on this? That is a lovely Easter gift to me, sweet one. :)

  9. 16

    This is a wise, practical, beautiful and IMPORTANT list. I love it. Thank you, I will refer to this. I think any of us would love to have a friend like this- and the key is to BE that kind of friend!
    I have found I have to be deliberate – so I make an effort to have coffee with a few different women that I’d like to get to know better- but it has been sporadic. After reading this, I realized I should do this on a more regular basis.

  10. 18

    Happy Easter Robin, How marvelous ans awesome that I read this today. I am so glad that you have shared these seeds with me, with all who read your post. I will take to heart what you have written and while I have in the past sent notes to friends and relatives, i have somewhat lost doing this with the new “texting technology”, but will put it back into practice as you are so right, it is nice to receive a “thinking of you note” instead of bills! Real short I will tell you that I had been praying for a friend, and one day she text me and said she wished she had wings to fly away, (mind you we had not seen each other or communicated in about three years, long story) So I text her back and told her “me too, you want to go to the beach sometime?” I was bold enough to ask her, but did not think she would respond. She text back, “yes, would love to, when.” A week later we went (this was in January), and we have renewed our friendship, it was so AWESOME, how God worked in this. Then another friend that I have had for 40 years (tells you how old I am, huh?), well I told her my story about how God sent me a butterfly in my desperate need (long story), I did not think that she had paid attention, but a couple weeks laters, she sent me a magnet with two hands holding a butterfly with the verse “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10. It is a perfect gift and is on my frigde. I thank you Robin for sharing this thoughts on friendship and I will most definitely used them. God bless you, Happy Easter!

    • 19

      Oh, Irene…BOTH of your stories gave me chills! These are the kind of things that speak GOD and GRACE into my life! He knows what we need, doesn’t he??

  11. 20

    Thank You Robin for your beautiful words of encouragement ! Love, Lee

  12. 22
    vicki bellI says:

    I found out my new friend at church’s daughter had just had an operation on her eye, her daughter is only 5 and I also was very aware how brave the parents of J were so I gave her a beautiful box with the word dream on, filled it with a small jewellery box I had and lots of pretty papers. From the blessing to her I got a tonne of blessing back.

    The little girl J was overjoyed and her mum was so happy.

    We are all meeting up in a couple of Sundays time. I reached out to a family and they reached back to me, thankyou for supplying blessings Lord.

    Friends when we reach out you never know what you’ll get back but I guarantee you will be blessed. The saying goes to get a friend, be a friend, be encouraged ladies love lots vicki xx

  13. 24
    Beth Williams says:

    Several times when my mother was in the hospital people at church, who didn’t know her, would stop by and check in on her–even after a long day of work and a long trip home.

    My pastor has driven 30 or so miles to my parents house and rebaptized my father (dunked in water) at a local church of same denomination. He came over and wrote and performed a beautiful funeral for her on the spur of the moment and the church fed my family. The pastor has since been over to see dad & visit with him. They are amazing people at Blue Spring Christian Church!!

    My in-laws are wonderful also. When mom died they invited my dad for Thanksgiving and Christmas that year and every year since. He also comes over at Easter. The step-mom always has extra food for him to take home. They are kind, gentle loving people.

    Love everyone!

  14. 26

    LOVE LOVE LOVE all your sweet, practical ideas. Sometimes we just need to see something in black and white for it to hit home for us and say, ‘yes, I can do that!’

    I like these words that a dear friend shared with me about face-to-face, voice-to-voice, and screen-to-screen conversations …
    http://creeksideministries.blogspot.com/2011/08/conversations-101.html

  15. 28

    Can I say that this list was actually really convicting? I love it and plan to use it to help me along in my “good intentions that never seem to go anywhere” personality. Thank you for an actual LIST. Sometimes I want to do “something” but have no idea what. Your list is a wonderful jumping off point. And right after I read your post I emailed good friends we haven’t seen in a good time and invited them to dinner. Thanks for the kick in the behind. :)

    • 29

      Michelle,

      YAAAEEEEE!!! But it was a gentle kick, right? You have NO idea how happy your response makes me. I mean, I didn’t even get the dinner invite but it feels like I did! Thank you for your words of encouragement back to ME! :)

  16. 31
    Denise says:

    Thank you, Robin, for all the good ideas. I am going to try and put them into practice. I moved states a year ago and haven’t found any close friends yet and realise I’ll have to do something about it. When I think of all your ideas I realise I don’t know where people from church live and neither do I have anyone’s phone numbers. BUT I will pray and ask the Lord to give me some creative ideas.

    • 32

      Denise,

      Start small, start with one. Be bold. Pray for the strength to rest in the Lord and for His wisdom and direction. I’m praying over you as I read and reply even now :) . xo

  17. 33

    FANTASTIC. PRINTING THIS LIST OUT.

    “DOUBLE THE RECIPIE” — my friend Jessica brought me AMAZING cookies one day and left them on my desk at work. FOR NO REASON. It was INCREDIBLE! :)

    • 34

      Kaitlin,

      Know what’s fun about finally getting around to replying to these comments? I’M BLESSED AGAIN!! Your use of all caps? Well, it’s like amazing cookies being left on my desk for no reason. Love! :)

  18. 35

    I’m not very good at anything task-oriented and so my friend stopped at the library, picked up tax forms and informative books, and brought them to my house, saying she would help me figure it out. So. Loved. So practical.

    Jordan

  19. 37

    In reading this, I am amazed at how easily I can still drop the ball on being a friend. Coming from a background where I was groomed to be very picky and judgmental of people, even friends, I have been a season of re-learning how to be a friend (rather than always looking for them). It is a very different mindset, and this post reminded me of that. Thank you for this reminder. I needed to be challenged to sharpen up how I am a friend to others that I have….and have yet to make. :)

    • 38

      Marni,

      It blows my mind how EASY it is to lose your way with regard to friendship; I think arrogance played a part in my own forgetfulness. But at least there’s purpose in my rocky journey, at least I think there is. I think I’m seeing that in this entire comment thread :) . Thanks for weighing in and affirming me through your perspective.

  20. 39
    Wendy Willis says:

    Please add me to your distribution.

  21. 40
    Anita T says:

    Loved this! I know we all get busy with our daily lives but this was such good reminder that if we want to have a friend we first need to be a friend. Loved the suggestions… I enjoy making cards and have tried to make it a point to send a “hello” to friends just to encourage them and remind them that they are in my thoughts.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] In(Courage) : Be the one to BE the One (a great post on practical ways to be a better friend) [...]

  2. [...] {Want more ideas on how to show friendship? Robin offers beautiful inspiration here.} [...]

  3. [...] a couple of weeks ago I read this post over at (in)courage called Be the One to BE the One.  It really resonated with me because I feel like I’m always the one waiting on the [...]

  4. [...] “Be the One to Be the One” | Incourage: When you know you need community but you don’t know how to seek it out, this list of 22 tangible acts of friendship is great food for thought. [...]