Friends. Of all the relationships that God created, I think friendship is the most unique. It's a process (and a little bit of an adventure) that we embark on with the ultimate goal to grow closer to another human. Friends come and go through our life. It seems like as soon as one exits, a new one is welcomed in. I've found that our own definitions of friendship have changed over the years. Remember when it was as simple as sharing the same favorite color? It seems like it grows more complex as we get older.

I've entered a place in life when friendship has become a real challenge. If you are looking for someone to talk to about friendship struggles, I'm your girl! I've been there. I'm a total introvert by nature. Striking up a conversation with a total stranger is a big deal for me. I've always been envious of my grandpa, who I'm almost 100% sure could be in a room full of people he didn't know, and by the end of the night be able to tell you about the town they grew up in and who their parents were. That's just him!

Maybe it's not a struggle for you, but if it is, I wanted to provide you some encouragement. I wanted to give you a guideline, a couple tips, and even a checklist that I hope will help you in the future!

When we look at the Bible, we can see a lot of great examples of friendship; David and Jonathan, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and John, etc. I wanted to cover really quickly a stint on toxic relationships. I think it's normal to have disagreements with friends. It's apart of healthy relationships. I don't believe that there is a perfect friendship where everything works out, but I do believe apart of a good relationship is apologizing, and become stronger and closer together at the end.

On the other hand, a toxic friendship is an ongoing, unhealthy relationship. If you feel manipulated, hurt, or like you constantly have to be doing/saying the right things, it's a pretty tell-tale sign you have entered a toxic relationship. A lot of times, you can step back and look at your life and how it changed (for the worst) when that person came into your life. Don't get me wrong- these kind of people can be fun and good to be around...but only for a short while. It can feel really random too. One minute you're having fun, and the next you begin to doubt yourself, and even change who you are to fit that person's desires. If you are ever being pushed by this person to participate in something that you don't want to do are that you know is wrong, it's a good time to say goodbye.

Exiting these friendships are equally as hard as being in them. My best advice here would to be firm, but benevolent. No drama, no accusations, just a goodbye. Then enjoy your freedom! As hard as it is, don't allow yourself to remember only the good times. Be assertive. As tough as it is, we deserve friends who are supportive and who will build us up.

If you've gotten past the bad relationships in the past, great! I'm proud of you. The question is... what now? It's hard to make friends, I won't deny that. However, we can't let the fear of rejection or putting ourselves out there control us! Yes, it can be scary, but that doesn't give us an excuse to back down. It only gives us a motivation to pursue authentic relationships.

My Tips

1. Be confident! Confidence says a lot about a person, and it affects a bunch too. A confident person will look someone in the eyes, show positive body language, and give a firm handshake.

2. Be engaged! Friendship can't be one sided. Be genuinely interested in the other person. Asking about them isn't only nice-it's a selfless thing to do.

3. Be friendly! Y'all, it seems obvious, but it's the truth. Be kind. I'm 100% speaking from experience when I say that what instantly turns me away from someone is if they're rude to their parents or siblings, if they gossip, they're mean to their own friends, etc. You have to put your best foot forward!

4. Get out there and just do it! You'll be so glad you did. How do you expect to meet friends if you stay home 24/7? Go to your youth group. Meet people at Bible Class. Anyone would be honored to be your friend. Go get em'!

Okay, I'm very much of a to-do list kind of girl. I wanted to compile a checklist of good character qualities you should look for in a friend. I didn't want this to be legalistic, but just a good guideline. (These are my top 5)

1. Supportive at all times, and in all seasons of life.

2. Encouraging at our low points; celebrating all the good things that come our way! (A good friend will be just as excited as you when you have an opportunity. Not jealous!)

3. As hard as it is to avoid, I hate small talk! I want to dive deep into a good conversation. I love friends who can carry a deep conversation, then 5 minutes later be laughing. It's good to have a blend.

4. A good friend won't try to sway you in your beliefs, or push you do to something you don't want to do or that you know is wrong. Good friends are confidants and supporters during peer pressure.

5. Find someone who you can totally be yourself around. I know that advice is well overused, but I'm totally serious. If you fight the feeling to change yourself to the version that they prefer, you've became someone that you aren't. You don't have to impress anyone to like you.

Best wishes to you as you go out and find new friends! Search for deep, meaningful friendships, and while you are waiting, be attentive to your friends now. Good luck!

With love,

Elena Kallenbach

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