What are the qualities of a good friend? To achieve good, true friendships, we must strive for certain qualities in our relationships.
Jesus talked about the kind of attitude we should have toward others in John 15. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Now, “life” in that passage is the word “psyche.” It connotes the soul, the mind, the emotions, and the will.
In other words, we don’t love at any higher level than when we set aside what we want to do in our mind and will to allow someone else to do something they want to do—or are called to do by God.
Think about the last time you made a sacrifice for someone else.
The sacrifices we make for others are true acts of friendship. Giving up our own desires and selfishness for the sake of someone else reflects the love and care of Christ.
So here’s what I’ve learned are the qualities of a good friend.
Quality 1: A Good Friend Loves and Listens
We tend to get goofy when we hear the word “love” because we’re not sure what it means.
Is it romantic love, as in “I love you”? Is it merely a strong like for something, as in “I love nature”?
Well, love in terms of friendship is a brotherly love, an agape love. It is a love that does so unconditionally and wants the best for others.
Being a good friend means learning to listen.
Now, that may seem strange, but many people have a lot to say, and they’re either afraid to say it or they don’t have the opportunity to share it.
So that means people walk around like ticking time bombs. So much inside of them is important to them.
To learn more about caring for others, check out Mentoring Moments by Brian D. Molitor—a 52-week guide for parents or guardians to guide young people closer to God.
They have questions, concerns, insights, feelings, and thoughts—all of which need to come out somehow. Too often people have no good outlet for all of it.
If you’re married you share a lot with your spouse, and that’s great. But there are some things that a man needs to talk about with other men and a woman needs to talk about with other women.
A spouse may not understand everything a person feels or experiences or desires. So we must take the time, if we’re going to strive for the qualities of a good friend, to mend our friends in, so to speak.
We must listen to what’s going on in our friends’ lives and be there when they need us.
Now, there’s a flip side to that as well. A good friend is someone who shares their thoughts and feelings. If you only listen all the time, you’re holding back.
We must reach a place where we are able to share what’s happening inside of us with other people. That is truly being a good friend.
Quality 2: A Good Friend Gives and Receives
We often have certain abilities or items or knowledge that could be a complete and utter blessing to someone else. And we should give it.
For example, I have a friend who returned from Israel, where he had purchased a beautiful shofar—which is a ram’s horn trumpet. This was a prized possession for him.
Well, he brought it back and gave it as a gift to my son.
When someone gives a gift to our children, it’s as if they are giving it to us. Giving and receiving are very valuable and important in our friendships.
It’s not giving so you can receive something in return, and it’s not giving because someone has given to you. That misses the mark entirely.
Friendship involves giving because you care and want to reflect Jesus’ light and love.
I once was able to give away furniture for a friend’s office. He’s a wonderful pastor, and the furniture he had was a little old. So I wanted him to have something nice.
I had moved offices and had a neat set of furniture left over that I wasn’t going to use. I knew the furniture was either going to go into storage or be sold for fifty cents on the dollar.
But the minute I realized my friend had a need, I knew I wanted him to have the furniture.
And the friend who gave the shofar to my son, he in turn received a gift from my son.
My son had a rifle he didn’t need. It was an extra rifle, and it was also one that my friend had always wanted.
I was so thrilled to see my 17-year-old son offer his rifle to my friend.
We can have friends of all ages. For example, read my book Mentoring Moments to see how you can be a friend to a young person.
So we can give and receive in friendship. What are other qualities of a good friend?
Quality 3: A Good Friend Is Honest
That sounds scary, right? Well, sometimes we need someone close to us to tell us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear.
Sometimes someone needs to be upfront with us and explain what they see going on in our lives.
- If we’re starting to stray
- If we’re forgetting our obligations
- If we’re neglecting commitments
- If we’re making choices that will bring harm to ourselves, our family, or our ministry
Then we need a real friend to speak into our life and bring awareness to our situation.
Without someone to draw attention to potential consequences and trouble, we can easily end up with unwanted grief and pain in our life.
Having a friend who is honest and willing to share the truth is such a blessing.
Quality 4: A Good Friend Mourns
We must be the kind of friend who will mourn with our friends in their mourning.
“Mourning” is kind of an old-fashioned word. It simply means that if we’re sad, our friends are willing to be sad with us, and vice versa.
A good friend doesn’t blow off difficult or painful feelings; rather, they walk through them gently alongside the other person.
Mourning can truly bring friends together. I remember well a time that this happened.
I was on a mule deer hunting trip in Colorado with three friends. One of my friend’s wives had gone through some medical tests just before the trip that showed the possibility of cancer.
The friend was really torn over whether he should go on the trip or not. But his wife bravely told him to still go, and he eventually decided to join us.
So there we were, camping up in the mountains. The rest of us could tell our friend was troubled, and every so often we’d ask how he was doing.
He would only reply, “I’m doing fine.”
The opening morning came, and we all had a quick breakfast and said a prayer together. Then the four of us split up. Two men walked off one way, and he and I walked off in another direction.
As we walked, I thought about my friend and how he must be feeling. I knew he was a great hunter and would be excited, yet I could tell he was still very troubled.
So I asked him to stop for a moment, and I said, “Buddy, I just have to ask you one more time. How are you truly doing with the situation of your wife?”
It was still dark, so we really couldn’t see each other’s eyes very well.
He turned to me and began to weep.
I reached out and hugged him. He hugged me, and we cried together. We spent about five minutes of our opening morning holding on to each other as men and crying.
And you know what? After those five minutes were up, the burden lifted somewhat, and he believed everything would be okay.
We said a short prayer together and cast our cares upon the Lord. These are what friends can share with one another and walk through together.
One of the qualities of a good friend isn’t just mourning, though.
Quality 5: A Good Friend Laughs
On that same trip, we spent hours and hours laughing together, setting aside the cares of the world, setting aside the concerns that bothered us. If we were troubled about our children or about something going on at work, we found joy in the moment and were able to laugh together.
Finding ways of encouragement, laughter, and joy is another important quality of a good friendship.
For example, we were later able to celebrate with my friend that his wife would be fine after a minor surgery.
A good friend finds joy in the journey.
Without moments of laughter and joy, we would only have the tough and difficult realities of life. To be able to lift others up and help them through hardship and trials is a gift and calling from God.
Because the reality is that they are called to do the same for us. Without each other, without true, good friendships, we would be so easily torn down.
We would be more likely to continue down paths of hurt, pain, and consequence. We would lack the edifying and encouraging presence that good friends bring.
God gave us the gift of friendship, and then he showed us how to be a friend.
The Qualities of a Good Friend
As you can see, all the qualities of a good friend involve laying down your life in some fashion. You must make willing sacrifices for your friends that involve your mind, emotions, and will. In this way, you exhibit laying down your “psyche” for others.
At times you’ve got to set aside what you want in order to see someone else accomplish something they want. That is what friends do.
A lot of the time, this simply looks like taking the time to be present for others—to be involved, to be invested, and to care.
Sacrificing our desires is not always easy. In fact, it’s not ever easy.
But building up one another in love is always worth it. Look at what Jesus did for his friends, for us.
Friendship involves loving and listening and giving and receiving. It involves honesty and laughter. It involves laying down your life for your friends.
Don’t be afraid to enter into friendship. But know that being the kind of friend you need to be requires work and time.
Be sure to check out Brian D. Molitor’s book Mentoring Moments to learn more about how to guide young people in their faith journey.
This post was adapted from an audio transcript provided by Brian D. Molitor. Used with permission.