Be a friend by using the Golden Rule
To be a friend sometimes takes more effort than we're willing to give.
We singles can keep our friendships strong, however, if we only remember the Golden Rule:
"Do to others as you would have them do to you."
This short command by Jesus sums up everything we need to do to be a friend. It helps us put ourselves in another person's shoes so we neither smother them nor neglect them.
Be a friend by simply listening
A fault that I've had to overcome in listening is thinking about what I'm going to say instead of focusing intently on what the other person is saying. Helpful listening takes empathy.
Don't interrupt. Don't be too quick to tell the person about a similar problem you had and how you overcame it. Stifle your natural impulse to "top" their problem.
Occasionally we can learn something by what the other person doesn't say, but be careful of jumping to conclusions.
Men, especially, are afraid to show any vulnerability or weakness, particularly to other men. I have found that women are more adept at drawing men out. Women tend to be more perceptive, but they also have to watch a tendency to talk instead of listen. Don't feel a need to fill awkward pauses.
Be a friend by doing
Love is expressed in actions, but kindness doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive. Small gestures can make a lasting impression. As we get to know our friends' favorite things, we can give them a gift of their favorite food, a hobby item, or a book. But don't try to buy a friend's affection.
Giving gifts should not turn into a competition, especially if a friend is on a tight budget. Extravagance can make your friend feel uncomfortable or even resentful. Use good judgment.
Remember the Golden Rule. How would you you like it if someone kept buying you gifts and you couldn't afford to reciprocate or they were continually "topping" you?
Of course friendship can be shown in deeds as well. When you're going to meet, be punctual. Don't keep a friend waiting. Be courteous. Never pick at your friend. Again, how would you like it if they were constantly criticizing you or focusing on your faults?
When the opportunity is right, build your friend up.
Years ago, I weeded sarcasm out of my personal habits. I saw that it has the real potential to hurt people, even if we make a remark in fun. Apologies can rarely erase the hurt done by words. The same goes for practical jokes. Would you want that kind of meanness played on you?
When the opportunity is right, build your friend up. Don't engage in insincere flattery, but tell the other person what you like about them. Don't assume they already know. It's a rare person who doesn't enjoy a genuine compliment, even if it does make them feel a bit embarrassed.
Be a friend by just being there
When a friend is going through a personal tragedy or hard time, you don't always have to support them with words of wisdom. Often your presence is enough.
We can feel unsure when a friend is hurting, and may say something like, "If I can do anything, let me know," or "I'll be praying for you." We can make our friendship real by doing something as simple as buying their groceries, picking up a prescription, mowing their lawn, or taking a hot meal to their house. One of the most reassuring signs of true friendship is knowing you're not alone when hardship strikes.
If you follow the Golden Rule, if you ask, "What would I like someone to do for me if I were in that situation?", you'll often come up with the right answer.
It takes time and effort to be a friend, and frequently it's inconvenient. But it's also one of life's highest callings: