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How you can identify a true friend, improve your relationships

Would it surprise you to know that over half of your friendships are not what you think they are?

Jason Jimenez
(Courtesy of Jason Jimenez)

According to researchers at Tel Aviv University and M.I.T., they found that people have a significantly poor perception of their friendships. Dr. Erez Shmueli, the director of the study, concluded, "We found that 95 percent of participants thought that their relationships were reciprocal…If you think someone is your friend, you expect him to feel the same way. But in fact, that's not the case — only 50 percent of those polled matched up in the bidirectional friendship category."

At first glance, I had a hard time believing the results of this social experiment. But after researching other friendship studies, it seems that's how big of a problem our perception of our friends really is. As it turns out, the vast majority of people have far fewer friends than they think they do. Or, to put it another way, roughly half of the people you think are two-way-friendships don't feel the same way about you as you feel about them.

This may be hard to swallow. It may even bruise your ego. But that's not my intention. Instead, I'd like to take the remaining portion of this article to improve your perception and strengthen those friendships God has blessed you with.

One of the most consequential reasons people invite non-reciprocal friends into their lives is because they pretend to be someone they are not. So the first step to improving your friendships is to be yourself. Yet, to be yourself, you must avoid trying to appease people by being someone you are not. This will not be easy. It will require a sincere faith and an open heart for the Holy Spirit to expose any fakeness in your heart and allow Him to transform you from the inside out.

The second step to improving your friendships is to stop pretending surface-level relationships are benefiting your life. You have to face the facts and realize that bending to your superficial friends' wishes and demands is a sign they don't care for you as much as you think. That doesn't mean you ought to blow these people off completely. But what it does tell you is you are better off shifting most of your time and energy to the ones God wants you to build friendships with.

The third step to improving your friendships is to open yourself to friends who will hold you accountable. A real friend is a trusted advisor who will never steer you wrong and will always be there to lift you up. Proverbs 18:24 reads, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." It is a tremendous blessing to have a few close friends you can always count on no matter what. Think about how loyal Ruth was to Naomi. Or the selfless acts of love Jonathan carried out on behalf of David. These treasured friendships are not only a reminder of what true friendship looks like but a standard for you to achieve in your own life.

As you seek to improve your friendships, commit to going through the list below as you allow God to work in your life and relationships.

My Commitment to Forge True Friendships

  1. I submit my friendships to God.
  2. I confess any sin that has contributed to my friendship problems.
  3. I ask God for wisdom and discernment in my friendships.
  4. I will stop making excuses and deal with whatever issues I am having in my friendships.
  5. I will put an end to any toxic friendships.
  6. I will make it a top priority to invest in more godly friendships.
  7. I will hold fast to Christ's freedom and not let worry, fear or guilt dominate my life.

Jason Jimenez is president of Stand Strong Ministries, a faculty member at Summit Ministries, and a best-selling author who specializes in apologetics and biblical worldview training. Check out www.standstrongministries.org.

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