What does a best friend look like? While there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all description for the perfect friend or the perfect friendship, if we look at the relationships Jesus had with the Disciples and the relationships the Disciples had with each other, patterns begin to emerge.

Good friends — best friends — should always be loving, accepting, trusting and honest, and should recognize healthy boundaries. How do you measure up?

Love Is Never Selfish

Love is the common thread throughout the magnificent tapestry that is the New Testament, and is to be the very foundation of all of our relationships, including friendship. But this is not just any love, like the way we love french fries or sports teams.

Christian love is sacrificial, never selfish. When we value our friends’ needs above our own, we begin to truly love the way Jesus loves. That is not to say you need to get down on the floor and wash your friends’ feet, but look for little ways to show others that the relationship means more to you than just what the other person has to offer you.

Friends Accept One Another Despite Their Faults

Unconditional acceptance is another characteristic that ranks pretty close to sacrificial love. Everyone is bound to mess up at one time or another. Sometimes we lie; sometimes we say hurtful things. Sometimes we forget to return the lawn mower, and sometimes we aren’t there for our friends when they really need us. We are all prone to making mistakes.

Good friends are not hindered by pride and stubbornness — this means we will take responsibility for our actions and ask for forgiveness when we mess up. It also means we are quick to forgive others when they offend or hurt us.

He who conceals his sins doesn’t prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

You Can’t Have Love without Trust

A third important element is trust. It is difficult for most of us, if not all of us, to trust another person with our deepest fears or longings. To be trustworthy means we listen without judgment, we offer constructive advice only if it is asked of us, and we hold that information in strictest confidence.

Gossip could mean the end of a relationship, and it is never worth the risk of inflicting permanent emotional wounds on someone for the few thrilling self-indulgent minutes that gossip may give us. Likewise, we must also learn to trust others. To expect someone to trust you without also putting your trust in that person will make for an uneven and challenging relationship.

Be Honest without Causing Harm

Another characteristic, honesty, goes hand-in-hand with trust. While it is certainly important to encourage each other and build each other up spiritually, emotionally and physically, sometimes it becomes necessary to say difficult things that our friends need to hear, but may not necessarily want to hear.

For example, if your friend complains her children are unruly and behave poorly at school, and you notice that structure and healthy discipline are lacking at home, it may be time for you to speak up — lovingly and respectfully. You may be the only person who has courage enough to share this, or you may be the only person that can impact your friend’s heart.

In the same vein, we need to be receptive to constructive criticism and honesty ourselves. After all, there is no point to building that relationship of trust if we are not going to be honest with each other.

Remember, John 8:32 reminds us,” You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Respect Boundaries

Finally, good friends recognize and maintain healthy boundaries. It is not healthy to be jealous or possessive, and a good friend recognizes your need to maintain other relationships. If you feel like you are being smothered or that you may be smothering someone else, it may be time to take a step back and examine the relationship.

Being a good friend — a best friend– — is one of the greatest relationships we’ll ever experience. If you feel like you need to work on one or more of these characteristics, pray that God will guide you as you grow spiritually and emotionally. To quote the musical Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

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