What does it take to develop deep friendships?

How to classify a close friendship

How would you distinguish the difference between an acquaintance, a friend, and a close friend?

What is the thing that most identifies each level?  Is the key factor trust, time, acceptance or something else?

A familiar author says: ” A friend is one who knows who you are, understands where you’ve been, accepts who you’ve become and still invites you to grow.”

That definition gives us direction and parameters to follow.  A friend knows you. A friend understands things about your past. A friend accepts who you are becoming.  And a friend wants you to grow and confronts you from time to time.

I really like that definition but, still I wonder, how does an acquaintance become a close friend? Maybe more importantly, am I building any friendships that get beyond the common “How-you-doing-today?”  level relationship. Frankly, I have plenty at that level, but too few with deeper roots.

Furthermore, what does it take to develop a friendship that goes deeper?

For years, I assumed that Russ and I were close friends.  I would talk and he would always listen. I felt heard and understood.  Then one day he told me, “You know Sam when we’re together you do most of the talking. Listen, I have things I would like to share too.” 

In order for friendships to go deeper, they can’t be one-sided affairs. They must be mutual, two-sided, for the benefit of both parties. In order to have a friend, you must be a friend.

Another trusted author offers five key elements by which to gauge our relationships. These are criteria to help us know when they are drilling down deeper or just lingering on the surface.

  • Openness
  • Trust
  • Commitment
  • Accountability
  • Empowerment

According to him, you can judge the depth of your friendships based on these five factors.  He evaluates relationships as being acquaintances, friends, or close friends based on their moving towards:

Openness – This means sharing who we are – struggles, battles, doubts, our ups and downs both past and present.

Level of Trust – When openness is met with genuine acceptance, over time it flourishes into deep-seated trust.

Commitment –  Openness and Trust clothed in acceptance lead to authentic concern and care for the other’s needs.

Accountability – As friends open up, learn to trust and affirm a deep commitment to each other’s lives they invite their friend to hold them accountable in specific areas of their lives.

Empowerment – When close friends experience the first four key elements their relationship lends muscle-strength and courage to believe they can make a difference. Friends empower friends to risk and try new things.

Now that you have some guidelines, let me ask, how many close friends do you have? Are you motivated to work on building a close friendship? Remember, friendships need to be mutual experiences, not for just one person’s benefit.

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