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Who Is a True Friend? – 7 Characteristics of a True Friend

Matthew is a Christian who loves God. He's been an online writer for 5 years. He loves to share his faith with people all over the world.


In today’s world, we’re quick to point our fingers at so-and-so and say, “he’s my friend” or “she’s my friend,” the question we need to ask ourselves is: Do we really know who our true friends are?

It’ll help us in being able to separate the sheep from the goats or traitors from stalwarts. Really, trust is important in a relationship. John Maxwell affirms, “Trust is the foundation of every relationship.” Another person said trust is more important than love. But the deal is, can everybody be trusted?

Without a doubt, just because you got a friends doesn’t mean you got someone who’s trustworthy—who knows if he’s a leech. You need to put your lens on, and do the screening, otherwise, heartbreak, betrayal, or disloyalty that could cause you grief and emotional pain might just be looming towards you.

7 Characteristics of a True Friend

1. Loves You Unconditionally: The Bible says, “He that maketh many friends (doeth it) to his own destruction.”[1] Why is that? Because his friends are not really trustworthy; they’re not true friends. However, the latter part of that same Bible verse says, “But there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”[2] That’s the true friend; he loves uncondtionally.

When someone loves you unconditionally, he isn’t your friend because you’re rich, famous, influential, intelligent, good looking, sociable or for any other reason in the world—he’s just your friend for who you are. He loves you for no reason and with no expectations. That’s who a true friend is.

2. Encourages You: Have you ever gone through a hard time and you just needed someone to talk to. At such times, you certainly wouldn’t need someone who’s going to criticize, condemn or judge you; you’ll need someone who’s going to succor you. You’ll need someone who’s going to make you feel better, not worse. You’ll need encouragement.

A friend might love you unconditionally and be with you when everything is fine. He might even go a step further not leave you when the going gets tough. However, what benefit would you derive from his presence? Would he be there to help and encourage or condemn and blame you? Would he be another salt in your wounds? Would he be blaming or encouraging? A true friend would be ardent in encouraging you.

3. Doesn’t Envy Your Success: Anyone could encourage anyone to press on to succeed. But when the success finally arrives, what would be their reaction? Would they all of a sudden become an enemy? Can they maintain the maturity needed to be joyful for their friend? Or they would perhaps become self-centered, pained and grouchy.

It’s a true friend that talks like John the Baptist, in reference to Jesus, who said: "He must become greater; I must become less."[3] You bet; John wasn’t jealous or envious. He wanted Jesus to succeed all he could. Incidentally, John’s ministry was along that line—to herald the coming of Jesus.

Jonathan is another Biblical example of someone who showed qualities of true friendship. He said to David, “You will be King over Israel, and I will be second to you.”[4] Only true friends could talk that way. Jonathan was actually the King's son, thus, the throne was supposed to be his. But he loved David and wanted him to succeed. That's why he said what he said. One who isn’t a true friend doesn’t have the capacity to talk that way.

4. They’re Willing to Give Sacrificially: Have you ever wondered why Abraham was called the friend of God? The scriptures says of Abraham, “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God's friend”[5] Well, how did he believe God? He believed God by sacrificially giving his dearly loved, only son—Isaac—as an offering to God.[6]

Jesus gave this example, too, when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”[7] Well, he is the ultimate friend, you might not find any other that’ll do that, however, we have another biblical example who was into sacrificial giving, that’s Jonathan.

It’s recorded that “he took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”[8] That a characteristic features of a true friend.

5. Defends His Friend: Imagine a scenario where two men are throwing fisticuffs and a third party fellow comes around and slaps one of the two. You would naturally reason that the one he slapped isn’t his friend, and the other one--the one he didn’t slap has to be his friend.

Although it’s not always the right way to deal with conflict, but it’s the natural inkling of a true friend. You just want to defend your friend. Jonathan in the Bible had this attribute. His father, who was the king of Israel, had decided to kill David who had done nothing wrong, but had only succeeded in doing better than him during international battles. He thought no one should do better than him since he was the king.

Jealousy got a hold of Jonathan’s father and he decided he was going to kill David. When Jonathan heard about this, he defended David by saying these words to his father: “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?"[9]

On another occasion, he defended David at his life’s expense: After seeing his father's resilience in pursuing David, he yelled at his him, “Why should he (David) be put to death? What has he done? Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him.”[10]

What Jonathan did was pretty risky because he escaped the spear by a whisker. However, that’s the rare quality that you find in true friends.

6. Can be Trusted: One of the wisest kings that ever lived said “wounds from a friend can be trusted.”[11] Coming back to the Jonathan-David saga: David literally trusted Jonathan with his life because he (Jonathan) was very trustworthy. He said to David, “If my father is inclined to harm you, may the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely.”[12]

So David’s life was literally hinged on whether or not Jonathan was going to be trustworthy here; whether or not he was going to warn David ahead of time so he could run for his life before he gets caught by the savage killer—king Saul. And he was trustworthy; he did exactly what he promised.[13] If trust is important—and it is—then a true friend must be trustworthy.

7. Confronts You Even When it’s Hard: Someone who sees you going the wrong way but doesn’t confront, stop or correct you is not a true friend. Correction is a gift; it’s not an insult. It’s only based on how you see it.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, King Solomon remarks.”[14] If you’ve got a friend and he’s not ready to prune you in any way, well, he’s just another leech. However, if he’s willing to take the risk of getting a sharp retort from you to give you an advice that’s diametrically opposite to what you'd want to hear—then, that’s a true friend.

After all, King Solomon said wounds from a friend can be trusted. It might hurt you, but if it’s from a true friend, he really meant no harm. He’s just showing how much of a good, true friend he is.

[1] Prov. 18:24a (ASV)

[2] Prov. 18:24b (ASV)

[3] John 3:30 (NIV)

[4] 1 Sam 23:17 (NIV)

[5] James 2:23 (NIV)

[6] Hebrews 11:17-19

[7] John 15:13 (NIV)

[8] 1 Sam 18:4 (NIV)

[9] 1 Sam. 19:4-5 (NIV)

[10] 1 Sam. 20:32-33 (NIV)

[11] Proverbs 27:6 (NIV)

[12] 1 Sam. 20:13 (NIV)

[13] 1 Sam. 20:35 (NIV)

[14] Prov. 27:17 (NIV)


© 2018 Matthew Joseph

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