We are created for relationship and we will not grow spiritually without other people. There is only so far we can grow on our own. Growth happens when we are the kind of people who take interest and responsibility for others’ growth. Growth also happens when there are people around us who are focused on helping us grow too. So let’s zoom in on three traits or qualities that should be present in spiritual friendship.
- For You — One needs to know that the person we are in friendship with is for us. This means they aren’t trying to help themselves or use us for some purpose. It means that we trust one another, comments are kept confidential and there is an innate belief that there is more for the person then they currently are experiencing. When I’ve been around people who I know are for me and believe in me, I’m much more willing to be vulnerable, confess shortcomings etc. because I know they aren’t disappointed in me, but want to help me get better. In our relationships we must be very intentional about conveying we are for the other person and we need to find friends who we are confident are for us.
- With You — In addition to believing in the other person, we need to know that they are in it with us. This means we don’t act as if we have it more together than the other person. We are willing to be vulnerable. We are humble and are willing to express empathy because we are not acting like we are further along. And if we are further along we help the other person to know that we will walk with them not in front of them. This also involves being a good listener, taking interest to really understand the other person and what their present reality is and what they wish for. True friends are in it with us and can relate with what we’re feeling.
- Propel You — The last trait we need is someone who will move us forward. It’s not enough to just in the mess with us, but someone who will push us past the mess. Obviously this involves encouraging each other. In Hebrews 10:23 it says, “consider how we may spur one another on…” I love the verse because of how it starts: “consider”. Not everyone is spurred on the same way. We must consider the other person and what will truly “spur them forward”. This means I need to know the other person well enough. Propelling someone else also means I’m willing to say the hard thing, I’m willing to “call” a person on something that is off in their life. We must be willing to even risk the relationship because our desire for their best is so strong that we work hard to move them forward.
Finding the kind of people who are for you, with you and will propel you will often take time, however, we can choose to be these kind of people for others today. As we choose to come alongside of others, we will foster an environment that is others-focused and honoring to God.