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Effective Friends

Last week, I met up with my close friend Josh for an impromptu dinner at Wingnuts (highly recommend the Blue Cheese Buffalo Burger, by the way).  Josh and I have been friends for nearly a decade, and have known each other even longer than that.  He stood by my side as I said my marriage vows, and I returned the favor last February when he married his beautiful wife.  

In between those two weddings is a story of a derailed friendship, a divorce, a reconciliation, and a redemption.  For reasons that only became clear after years of reflection, Josh and I ceased to be friends about a year after I was married.  Neither of us could articulate the reasons at the time, and even now that we can, they seem minor and petty.  But the reality is by the time my marriage fell apart, Josh was not the one I called for support and counseling.  Eventually, we did reconnect and over time rebuilt our friendship, learning to provide the support and encouragement both of us needed.  


Our friendship has certainly evolved because of the experience - while our time spent together is less frequent, the quality of our conversation has become richer, more robust, and more intriguing.  As Josh has pointed out - we can jump to a “level 5” conversation without batting an eye, and finish up with chatter about the “level 1” things in life (you know, the latest on the Lakers, the proliferation of Tiger Woods news, even the mysteries of “Lost” - actually, that’s more of a “level 4”  conversation).  


A while back, Josh posted a question on about the definition of an effective friendship.  We started an online dialogue that really captures the dynamic of our conversations, and the depth of our friendship.  After our impromptu dinner last week (with the requisite “level 5” conversation - this time reconciling the reasons why our friendship died for a while), I was inspired to revisit this conversation.  The clarity of time has shown me what I’ve known deep down all along - Josh is a rare and awesome friend.  A friend that provides “truth, companionship, support, and accountability”.  He is an effective friend.


Here’s the dialouge we had:


Josh:  Being a friend means different things for different people. For me being a friend is more than just getting along with someone else and having a good time. It means being able to accept faults, point out where growth is needed, encourage and assist with that growth, and being open to have that done in return. I could write a small chapter on what "effective" friendship means to me, but I want to know what others think.


Jim:  That IS a good question friend, and it's high time someone takes a stab at answering it. If you are an effective employee, you are doing your work well, right? You are contributing to the company's goals, you are enhancing the value of the company. Therefore, I would say that if you are an effective friend, you are doing much of the same. Not that every friendship needs to have clear cut goals and stock reports, but the general goal of friendship - true friendship - is to provide truth, companionship, support, and accountability. The friendship is enhancing the value of the relationship.

I immediately think of David and Jonathan's friendship - a relationship that sharpened both men, provided great support, truth, and accountability. That does beg a different question though - does the friendship work if only ONE of the friends are "effective"?


Josh:  Wow, way to throw it back, Jim!. That is a tough question. I think you can be an effective friend to someone else without them reciprocating, but I don't believe you can develop a healthy effective friendship unless both parties are actively involved. Iron can chip away at wood for a while to lighten the load, but at some point the iron needs to be sharpened in order to work properly.

Effective friendship, to me, comes when both people are committed to each others growth and spiritual maturation. It comes when both people are able to share a range of emotion, both good and bad, without fear of rejection or retaliation from the other.

We are not meant to go through life alone. Every person needs someone to turn to to celebrate achievements, get through challenging situations, and to experience life with. We should all seek out ways to encourage healthy effective friendships in others and in ourselves for others.


Jim:  I like the iron chipping away at wood analogy -- I think we've all had friends like that. I would suggest that type of relationship doesn't necessarily require both parties to be sharpened, however, I do agree that wouldn't qualify as an effective friend. Perhaps that type of friendship belongs in a different category?

I like your description of an effective friendship. Perhaps in more ways than we'd all like to admit, it is similar to entering into a marriage in a way. True friendships stand the test of time and often have similar components, yes? (Imagine two old men sitting on a patio at the retirement home, reminiscing together. Wouldn't their dynamic remind you of an old married couple?)

Gives a whole new perspective on the term "man-date". Ha.


(By the way, Josh and his wife, Gigi, keep a pretty entertaining and thoughtful blog themselves.  Check it out at  


So, what is your definition of an effective friend?  Feel free to chime in below in the comments section. Or, add to our conversation at the Q&A forum.  




Friends are like different body but same soul. They go through with you for everything that's happening in your life. And if you're lucky to find a true friend, they'll stick with you no matter what. - YORHealth

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Grace makes beauty out of ugly things. I'm no relationship expert, but when my marriage fell apart, God's grace was extended through His community. This is the place to explore that community together.