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Last year I read a book, of course I can’t remember the name right now, but in essence it was all about learning how to be a better friend.
It was exactly the book that I needed to read.
I don’t have a great friend history. I had the same “best friend” for most of elementary school but when I switched school we drifted apart even though we still lived close together. Now I have a general idea where she is living but with the exception of one short email I haven’t heard from her for well over fifteen years. (Oh man, feeling old right now.)
In my new school I tended to have a different “best friend” every year (which is quite a feat considering there were only about 13 girls in my class/grade).
I’m still friends with many of those girls from middle and elementary school and I’ve gained some new friends over the years but I would never say that I am a really good friend. If anything, friendship reminds me how incredibly selfish I am.
So, if you are confused about how this post is supposed to be about being a good friend when I’ve just admitted how much I suffer in this area, continue on my dear, this is an area I’ve been thinking and praying about a lot lately and I think what I’ve learned will benefit us both!
As an introvert I’d rather have less friendships that go deep as opposed to many friends that I can only go surface level with. But because of my selfishness I can still manage to be a terrible (read: neglectful) friend to those few.
But I know how important friendships are so they are something I am willing to invest my time and energy in. Yes, friendship can be messy when you are dealing with two humans that make mistakes, but friendship can teach us about grace, compassion, dedication and so much more.
Today I just want to share some practical ways I’m trying to be a better, more intentional, friend.
The best thing we can do to be a better friend is pray! Pray for yourself to be a better friend and pray for your friends! I’ve kept a prayer journal for years, which I really loved, but I recently switched over to an app on my phone because, while I do prefer the journal method, it’s more convenient to have my prayer list on my phone, plus it reminds me to pray each day, so no excuses!
In case you are wondering, the app I use is called PrayerMate.
LISTEN & PAY ATTENTION
Being a friend takes work, and part of that is listening to friends and actually paying attention.
I’ve always admired people who are good gift givers, that is not a natural talent I was given. But we all can improve our gift giving skills by listening to what our friends talk about and giving them something that interests them. I don’t often buy gifts for my friends but I personally think it’s better to not give a gift than to buy a gift that is obviously something I like but doesn’t suit my friend.
Gifts don’t have to be expensive, but put some thought into it. (Totally talking to myself here.)
On the flip side, if you want to make gift giving easy for your friends, be obvious about your interests! I think all my friends know how much I enjoy reading, chocolate and alpacas. 🙂
KEEP A CALENDAR
I have to admit: one talent I have is remembering birthdays. I could tell you the birthdays of people I only knew in elementary school. For some reasons birthdays stick in my head, to the point where I think I’ve creeped a few people out by remembering their birthday.
For those that don’t have a birthday computer brain like I do, Facebook can help with this a lot! Except for those people that don’t have their birthdays on there because they are curious to see how many people remember without having the Facebook reminder (um, I am totally one of those people).
Whether you have a brain for remembering birthdays or not, keeping a friend calendar is a great thing to have. Integrate this into your current calendar system, if you are a paper girl, rock it, if you are digital, add it in there!
I use Google calendar because as much as I love paper and stationary, digital is just more practical. I have one calendar labeled “Birthdays” which I share with my husband because he doesn’t have a birthday computer brain and then I have a personal one labeled “Friends” where I put other random reminders in like when a friend is having surgery or going on a trip or other important dates that I may not otherwise remember.
Thank goodness for the invention of the text message because I have a speaking-on-the-phone phobia and would be checking in on exactly zero people if a phone call was required.
Checking in doesn’t have to be hard, it could be as simple as sending a message to a friend on an important day (put your calendar to use!) or letting them know that you are praying for them this week or this season and be specific in letting them know what you are praying for.
Of course, a friendship can’t just stay digital, you need to actually have real life check-ins as well. I think most people call this coffee but since I don’t drink coffee I call it “coffee” (yes, with the quotation marks) or a chat because I feel like I give certain expectations if I invite people over for coffee and then they realize that I own a Tassimo because I haven’t the foggiest notion on how to make a real cup of coffee. (And I’m friends with some real coffee connoisseurs so I don’t want to disappoint.)
If you want friends to share and be comfortable telling you about what is going on in their lives it needs to go both ways.
This is something I really struggle with because:
a) everyone else always seems to have it together and I don’t always like to admit how flawed I am
b) I don’t do well with emotion and being vulnerable often results in a lot of emotions.
Give me some grace, I’m learning.
Okay, I think that’s it!
Now I’m hesitant to hit publish on this post for fear that my friends will all expect me to be an amazing friend from here on out. Can I just admit now that this probably won’t be the case? I’m a work in progress and all I can promise is that I am trying.
If you have tips for me on how to be a better friend, leave me a note in the comments below, as I’ve already admitted, I need all the advice I can get.