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 | Griena H. Knight Davis

Strengthening Relationships for the Love of Others

There was a popular song in the 1980s by the group Whodini that asked, “Friends. How many of us have them? Ones we can depend on?” The hymn by Joseph M. Scriven written in 1855 says, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!” Young and old people struggle with identifying compatible companions, developing healthy relationships, and maintaining meaningful friendships. Jesus had close friendship with Peter, James, and John. They were among the first of the Twelve Apostles to be called by Jesus. John was so close to Jesus that he was there during His agony in the garden and at the foot of the cross when He died. It would be a blessing if we could discern who will be our friends like Jesus did. However, what does it mean to have friends?

Although it was necessary to fulfill God’s plan for our salvation, Jesus was not immune to being betrayed by a friend. All our friends have a purpose in our lives. A true friend is expected to provide support, positive regard, joy, and respect for our core values and beliefs. Jesus reminded us that friends forgive each other and do not gossip about each other. Friends allow us to live the commandments according to Matthew 22:37-39. This Scripture provides a wonderful summation that we must love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and that we must love our neighbors, or friends, as we would love ourselves. Therefore, there is a responsibility that for us to have friends, we must first be a good friend to ourselves honoring God, Who made us in His image.

Being a good friend to ourselves means loving ourselves and treating ourselves as we would like to be treated by others. This includes activities such as:

  • Being honest with ourselves and acknowledging our true feelings.
  • Respecting our mind and body by caring for ourselves mentally, spiritually, and physically.
  • Encouraging ourselves and acknowledging the positive traits we possess.

Before a person enters a relationship with another, it is best that they are ready to be a friend who can be kind, open, honest, and dependable while encouraging and affirming others. Sometimes, friendships may undergo difficulties. Promises may be broken, or someone did not listen to the other when they were having a rough day. One person in the relationship may feel as though they “do all of the work” and the other person is inattentive. Situations occur where friends may have serious disagreements and hold grudges towards each other. Therapy can help individuals in a friendship overcome challenges they may be experiencing in developing or maintaining a meaningful and healthy relationship. Often, friendship counseling enables friends to strengthen their assertiveness and reflective listening skills, and it certainly does not have to be sought only when in a crisis. Building effective communication skills — such as active listening, conflict resolution, and the non-personalization of issues — is very important in developing and maintaining any relationship, especially friendships.

Friendship is the foundation of any relationship, including our relationship with ourselves and with Jesus. Our earthly relationship journey with others should reflect our spiritual journey in faith. If we subscribe to the recurring theme of love in salvation history, then we are well on our way in overcoming the conundrum of identifying, developing, and maintaining healthy relationships with others. Striving to love ourselves unconditionally as God loves us, then sharing that love with others is the purpose of friendship.

Griena H. Knight Davis is a licensed professional counselor at Catholic Family Services in Birmingham. She has a doctorate degree in education and is a national certified counselor, Board-certified coach, and Board-certified-telemental health counselor.