Loneliness is a real problem in our society. We're more connected than ever before thanks to technology, but we've also never been quite so isolated. It's the paradox of our time: we can chat to a friend on the other side of the world at the touch of a button, but few of us know the people who live on our street, or remember anyone's birthday without a Facebook notification.
With that in mind, here are some of the keys to creating meaningful, lasting friendships.
1) Be there
Friendship takes work – so put in the time. Get in the car, pick up the phone, organise some Skype dates if they're far away. Or if they live close, have them over; Jesus' life taught us that sitting around the table is where friendships become real, and where lives are changed. Spending quality time with friends might mean having dinner, going on a holiday together, or simply sitting quietly when someone's going through a hard time. But just make sure you're there.
2) Be honest
If our friendships are to be truly meaningful, they need to be real. They take risk – sticking it out when things get tough, and challenging one another when you think it's needed. We can't only be there for the good times; lasting friendships are those which deal with the tough things head-on, and are strengthened by it.
3) Be supportive
Friends cheer one another on, even – especially – when the other achieves or gets something you'd like for yourself. Be interested in your friends' lives; ask them what you can be celebrating and praying for – and then actually do it. Check in and see how things are going.
4) Be committed
Millennials, especially, are known for being flakey. We make plans, but then bow out at the last minute when a better offer comes along, or we simply don't fancy it. But next time you're about to send a text asking to reschedule, stop and think whether that's actually an honouring way to treat your friend. Obviously there will be times when we just can't make it, but if it's just that it's raining and you'd rather continue binging on Making a Murderer, it might be time to reconsider your attitude.
5) Be forgiving
We're all human, and all capable of hurting and disappointing one another. The key to any good relationship is to forgive easily and graciously. When you feel let down, don't fall into the trap of bitching about one another – especially not under the guise of a 'prayer request'. Friendships should be honest, generous, and always about loving one another as best you can.
6) Be boundaried
We can't be best friends with everyone, and it's okay to keep some boundaries on your friendships. Have a few close friends with whom you can be totally vulnerable and share your deepest stuff, but don't bare you soul with everyone you meet for a coffee.