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The Advocate



Anatomy of a Friend : How to Be A True Friend According to 16 Top Christian Artists

by Tracy Darlington

"I never felt like I totally fit in. I always wanted to be cool with my sister’s friends. It was hard always feeling like I was being left out. But you have to come to a point where you just don’t care anymore what people think and say about you." --Lauren Barlow (Barlowgirl)


Ever had a friend you really trusted, one you could tell your deep dark secrets too? Imagine one day you find out they're spreading rumors about you behind your back. How does this make you feel? It probably makes you want to turn your back on the only friend you've ever had. But what would a true friend do? How would a true friend act? Some of your favorite Christian music artists dish out advice on what it means to be a real friend.

Rebecca St. JamesREBECCA ST. JAMES:

The first thing is to pray for great godly friends. I had friends back in Australia, but when we moved to America I was really lonely because I had just changed to a whole different country and a different culture. I prayed for two years for a best friend who would encourage me in my walk with God, and that we could have a deep strong bond. I've been best friends with the friend God gave in response to those prayers for years. She’s amazing. She’s married with four kids. We live completely different lives, but God knits us together so much.

Honesty is really important---being vulnerable with where you’re at and not trying to put up a front that says everything’s okay, when it’s not. Ask your friends to keep you accountable. I remember when I was lonely in my youth group for awhile there, and I didn’t have very many close friends. My parents would say, "You’ve gotta be a friend to have friends. Reach out. You can’t just expect people to come to you all the time." That was challenging to me.

There have definitely been times when a friend will tell me something in confidence, and I have to choose when I’m with other friends that know that person, whether or not I’m going to share the information or keep that person’s confidence. Those are the times in our lives when we’re tested in our loyalty to somebody. It's important to be faithful not gossip but be wise with our words and respectful of our friends.


Joy Williams
JOY WILLIAMS:

I can honestly say there were two people in my life that taught me what it looks like to be a true friend. Ashley and Emily showed that to me. Ashley - the Loyal - was constantly there to listen without judgment, to cry with me when I cried, to encourage with truth, and to show her love through notes, cards, etc. Emily - the Steadfast - was the friend who helped me put things into perspective, to laugh when I was taking life too seriously, to go surfing together on the weekends because we had no boyfriends “and everyone else did”, to talk life, talk theology, talk dreams. Ashley and Emily taught me that being a true friend isn't just listening, but not without accountability. Being a true friend is serving the other, even if it's to make each other laugh. Being a true friend is celebrating the truth, right choices, and challenging one another to chill out or get it in gear.

I had someone very special to me in high school almost die of an eating disorder . . . an eating disorder that I was very well aware of. My blurry, fear-fused vision of maybe losing her friendship if I got her help, clouded my ability to see that I might have lost HER entirely had our mentor not stepped in. From that moment on, I vowed that I would never make the mistake of being fearful of the truth like that again. When you really love somebody, you must love them with honesty and grace.

Sara AckerSARA ACKER (Inhabited):

Growing up, I went through some really tough times because I didn’t have a lot of friends. I went through quite a long season where I felt very alone, with no one to confide in. In my desperation, I began to pray for a godly friend that I could have fun with, trust in, and even pray with. There was a long waiting period, but God finally answered my prayer and blessed me with the best friend I have ever had. We have been best friends for about 10 years now, and I thank God for her. It took some time of standing alone, but I learned that you should never compromise who you are to get friends because those people usually end up not being true friends after all. Always be yourself. Being a true friend has a lot to do with trust and loyalty. No one wants to confide in a friend and have that person run off and blast their personal life over the loud speaker at school. If someone opens up to you, they are being vulnerable by telling you something that could possibly ruin their reputation, so be mindful of that. One of the most important things you can give to someone is trust. Don’t ever betray a friend to join some other clique because remember, what goes around always comes around.

Janna LongJANNA LONG (Avalon):

Being a true friend is all about trust, loyalty, and dependability. I have had the same best friend since I was 10 years old. Ronda is a wonderful woman of God. We have had our disagreements in the past but we've always been there for one another. I have tried to always give a listening ear when she was going through a difficult time, and she has done the same for me. Friendship is "give and take". God's word tells us that in order to have friends, we must show ourselves friendly. Being someone's friend is sometimes not what I can get out of the friendship but what I can give. God has placed certain people in my life in order for me to bless them, not always being the one that is blessed. I am reminded of Jesus and the disciples and the friendships they shared. Christ spent so much time with all of them and even though they made many mistakes, one of them even betraying Him, Jesus never judged them. He loved them right where they were and helped them become men of God. Jesus is the ultimate example of friendship. He loves no matter where people have been or what they've done.


Natalie GrantNATALIE GRANT:

Be a good listener. Sometimes a person just needs to talk and desperately needs someone to hear them out. Listen to your friend. Then go to God’s Word. Give them Scripture that will encourage them on the journey. Last, but not least, be their accountability. Ask them the tough questions, even if you know it might make them angry. But let them know that you love them and care about their spiritual health so much, you are willing to risk them being upset with you.

 

 




Jason DunnJASON DUNN (Hawk Nelson):

Don't pick sides. It's very common for friends to side with other friends because they don't want to feel embarrassed or look dumb. If your friend is getting into things that probably isn't the best to be getting involved in, be a friend to them, a true friend, and let them know that you're concerned. It's better to say something, and possibly stop it from becoming a bigger deal than it should be, then having your friend make a bad choice in life, and end up regretting it years down the road!

There was a time in my life when my whole group of friends at school all started doing a bunch of stupid things, like smoking and drinking. I knew in my heart that I shouldn't get myself into those kind of things. I had to make the hardest choice of my life by leaving my friends and try to find new ones. Imagine leaving the friends that you've known for your entire life. It's a tough thing to do. I truly believe God will honor your decision!


 

Chrissy Conway KatinaCHRISSY CONWAY KATINA (Zoegirl):

Being a true friend is invaluable. No friend is perfect, but there are ways we can work on being the best friend we can possibly be. Gossip can be very very tempting, but it's definitely not something a true friend will do. If it's not helping or encouraging someone, it's better left unsaid. If you have a problem with your friend, tell them directly and not the rest of the world. Good friends are people you can trust to be honest with you at all times. A true friend will speak up and stand up for what's right. True friends will encourage each other to make good choices in life and let each other know when the other one is headed for disaster. Last but not least, a true friend is a great listener. It's very easy to make every conversation about "me, me, me". Make sure your friend knows that you are there for them and ready to listen and pray whenever they need you. Do these things and you are well on your way to becoming the best friend you can possibly be.



Colleen WalkerCOLLEEN WALKER (Carried Away):

One thing I’ve learned, and am still learning, is that a true friend can only be found in God. However, God has given us those in our lives who simply care about us. If you want to be someone who makes an impact on those around you, pray that God will give you the ability to love on people. Friendship at its best was exemplified by Jesus when He died on the cross and took the penalty for our sins. Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to take our place and die a brutal death. Love was what bound Him to the cross. He loved everyone equally, and unconditionally, no matter what their status was.

As I am writing this, I can’t help but remember something that changed my whole view on friendship. It was my eighth grade year and the first day of school. I hurried in looking for my best friend. I wanted to tell her to save me a locker beside hers, and a seat beside her in every class we had together. However, I got there only to see a new girl sitting beside my only best friend. So I took the seat in front. “That's OK,” I thought. As long as we had our lockers beside each other. At lunch, I discovered the new girl had officially taken my locker beside my best friend. How could this be? We shared everything together, and all of the sudden someone is trying to invade. Well, later on during that year, I grew to accept the new girl, even though she was different from everyone else. I knew that God had placed her in my life for a specific reason. This new girl hadn't ever been accepted or loved anywhere she went. She shared with me hurtful stories of how people had rejected her growing up. I realized something that year that I will never forget. Although I had my best friend who I did everything with, I needed to accept other people for who they are.

There isn't anyone who is insignificant or worthless, and even when everyone else deserts someone, we need to be the one to show love. We even need to love the unloved, because if we don't, who will? Friends will come in and out of your life during different seasons. I believe God created friendship so that we can intervene and make a difference during those seasons. My only advice on how to maintain a friendship is to study the life of Jesus and how He befriended those around him while He was on Earth. Also, know that the key to friendship is unconditional love, which is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” If you love someone with the love that God has given to you, you'll be a loyal, trustworthy friend.

Leslie Moore Jump 5LESLIE MOORE (Jump 5):

To be a true friend you have to listen as well as give good, honest advice. A true friend to me is someone that I can always rely on. They are there for me whenever I need them, even if it’s at 2am. A true friend will always try to understand. A friend will help you out when you ask, but you don't have to ask a best friend. I'm a strong believer in keeping the promises It's important and the right thing to do.

 

 





Krystal MeyersKRYSTAL MEYERS:

I had a friend from church who was struggling. Her boyfriend had been pressuring her to have sex with him. I sat down with her and was like, “I’m going to be hardcore with you about this.” I told it to her straight, “This isn’t something you’re supposed to do. He’s not worth your time, because he’s got wrong motives.” I knew I was stepping into dangerous territory telling her something like that. But I had to be a real friend and look out for her well-being. She respected that and told her boyfriend up straight that she was going to take my advice. Look out for your friends, and if something’s going to hurt them, come to them in love.





Pam WalkerPAM WALKER (Carried Away):

A time in my life where I made a choice between betrayal or loyalty to someone was in grade 8 when a new girl came to my school. My friends and I started to get to know her and welcome her to the school, but soon most of the class rejected her. They were jealous of her since she was good at practically everything! On a daily basis people would call her names and make fun of the way she looked. I thought about how she was being treated and how I would feel in her situation, and I decided I needed to continue to be her friend regardless of how others felt about her. If I wanted to go along with the popular crowd I would have had to ignore her feelings and make fun of her as well, but I just could not bring myself to do that. I knew that being friends with this girl was the right thing to do because it would be selfish for me to join the others and not accept her. At first this was a difficult choice to make since none of the popular people were friends with her, but I realized that she deserved to have a friend too.



Lauren BarlowLAUREN BARLOW (Barlowgirl):

Nobody likes to feel left out. Nobody wants to feel that people don’t like them. Being the baby of the family, that was something very hard for me. I never felt like I totally fit in. I always wanted to be cool with my sister’s friends. It was hard always feeling like I was being left out. But you have to come to a point where you just don’t care anymore what people think and say about you. You have to live the life you know God has planned for you to live and shut out the voices in your head saying you’re uncool, you’re not popular. You have to shut that off and say, “You know what? I’m done with that. I’m gonna find out what God thinks of me. I’m gonna let Him define me. I’m not going to try so hard to fit in anymore. I’m going to live the life that God wants me to live.”

A true friend is someone who understands you. Totally. They’ll listen to you forever. They’ll listen to you complain. They’ll give you advice any time you need it. A true friend is someone who’ll always be there for you, who supports you, who sticks by you no matter what, who is self-less in their relationship with you, someone who thinks about you more than they think about themselves. How would you feel if there was a group of kids talking about you behind your back and no-one stood up for you? Even if you look weird sticking up for your friend, you have to put yourself in the reverse position. If anyone would ever talk about my friend behind their back, I’d be like, “Guys, how would you feel if someone was doing this to you?” We need to think about what we’re talking about, because nobody likes to hear they’ve been talked about behind their back. And I would sure hope that somebody would stick up for me. I would definitely do that for a friend.

Melissa Greene AvalonMELISSA GREENE (Avalon):

Being a true friend means listening! Being there even when it is not convenient for you. I am learning, even now, that a phone call means a lot! Also, if a friend trusts you with a private prayer request, never repeat it to anyone. Just faithfully pray for them and that request every time it comes to mind. Although it may seem cool to betray your friend in that moment, it will ultimately ruin your relationship in the end. I remember in high-school going behind my best friend's back and lying about her, just to fit in with some different friends. It totally back-fired and I lost her precious friendship. In the end, she became friends with the girls I had talked about her to. Funny how things can turn around. Be faithful to God, your family, and friends . . . no matter what.




Warren BarfieldWARREN BARFIELD:

I believe you are truly lucky if you can say you have a true friend. By true friend I mean someone who is unconditionally there for you. I believe you are twice as lucky if you have someone who would call you a true friend. Would you call yourself a true friend? Are you there when things are going bad or are you more of a fair weather companion?
I've had many fair weather friends in my life, but I am blessed to have found five people outside of my family who I would call true friends. I sit here and question whether they would say the same of me. Am I a true friend? I love to be there when we are having fun. When they have money and offer to pay my way, count me in. When they are successful I am by their side sharing in the spotlight. When they are at their best I am a great friend. But, where am I when their world falls apart? What do I do when they can't afford to keep up with me? When they lose and everyone is pointing and laughing, am I there to share in the pain? When they are at their worst, am I a great friend? Am I a True Friend? Are you? I pray you find a true friend, but even more so I pray you are one.

I went to high school in a very small conservative Christian town. It was the kind of place where most people kept their faults hidden away in some deep dark closet and lived their life as if everything was perfect. During my junior year a popular girl in my class found out that she was pregnant. Rumors begin to fly, and before long she was walking alone through the halls wearing an oversized sweatshirt while huddled groups of her peers whispered and pointed. She became an outcast sentenced to this aloneness by a jury of ex-friends many of whom had made the same mistake she had but managed to keep their secrets hidden in that deep dark closet. I remember sitting with a couple of friends in the cafeteria watching this thing unfold. She was walking past unwelcoming tables trying to find some place to sit when a buddy of mine said hi to her and asked if she wanted to sit with us. She continued to sit with us til the day we graduated high school and became someone that I respected a lot. That day we made the choice to be loyal. We didn't condone her mistake but we recognized that she had value. Everyone has value. It is up to us whether we choose to see that value or not.

Nichole NordemanNICHOLE NORDEMAN:

I think of the life of Christ. Of course, when you're faced with being the only person in the room to try and reach out to the one unlovable, irritating, obnoxious, unpopular person, the last thing you are thinking about is your "What Would Jesus Do" bracelet. That's human nature. It is far easier to go along with the crowd than to draw attention to yourself by being, or loving, someone different and difficult.

Quick story: I'm in my early thirties (although for the most part, I still feel like I'm in the 9th grade). I met someone on tour a couple years ago. She was, without a doubt, the most irritating person I've ever met. She was so insecure and needy; she was constantly demanding my attention, wanting to be my friend, to monopolize my time and share her deepest (and darkest) stories with me. She would hunt me down, no matter how hard I tried to hide from her. She was desperate for friendship and attention. I wish I could tell you that I prayed about it and decided to reach out and try to help her. I didn't. Instead, I hid from her every time I saw her coming. I couldn't handle how unattractive her neediness was. I found out six months later that she took her own life. It will be a long time before I ever feel fully "forgiven" for how I ran from the chance to communicate the love of Jesus to her. I feel like because of that experience God has given me the chance to encourage other people to take a risk and to be willing to be a friend to the most unlovable people in our paths. You could very well have been hand picked by Jesus to love them through the next 10 minutes.

Britanny Hargest Jump 5BRITTANY HARGEST (Jump 5):

Being a true friend to someone is all about listening and trying to understand. Some people feel like no one gets them and they bottle up all of their emotions and keep it to themselves. But if you really listen to what they have to say, that's being a true friend. Friendship is also about letting people be who they are. Don't judge someone if they are different than you. Instead, love them for who they are, even if they do get to be completely crazy sometimes! (Like me!) 3 key words to true friendship: 1. honesty, 2. understanding and 3. love, of course!

 

Tracy DarlingtonTracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.