How to make your friendships work

Friendship needs to be worked at, says Claire Musters.Mateusz Stachowski

I was challenged recently by a study I was doing on Eve. The guide I was working through asked a question: "What does 'being one flesh' in marriage mean, both physically and spiritually?"

I realised I could think of an infinite number of ways in which my husband could show me that we are one flesh (mainly practical things like cooking more often, not going to bed so late, not distracting the kids when I'm trying to get them out to school or to bed ... yes, he has read this).

However, I knew in my heart that I had to stop and really think about the ways I can show him more clearly. Here are some of the things I wrote in my journal:

Ensuring his wellbeing and needs come into my daily equation rather than being afterthoughts or forgotten about completely.

Being more thoughtful, gentle, encouraging.

I then noted underneath that that is certainly a lifetime's worth of work for me. But I immediately thought about how I relate to others that are close to me, too. I have friends who are dear to me but I suddenly began to question how well I show them how much I care about them. I looked at what I had written again and asked myself the following questions:

Do I ever prioritise my friends' needs over my own – or are they always an afterthought, squeezed in if I have time left over from my own schedule?

Do I do thoughtful things to show them I care – such as email or text to check how they are doing, send a card with an encouragement on it, randomly buy them something (I would probably buy flowers) for no reason other than the fact that I'm glad they are in my life?

Am I gentle in the way I speak to them – particularly if we have a disagreement or I feel I need to challenge them on something? What about if they challenge me? Is my speech seasoned with grace and mercy or do I always want to end up being seen to be right?

How often do I encourage them – do I let them know that I think they are doing great and try to encourage them to seek hard after God and reach their full potential?

This world is a lonely place without true friends. We can litter our days with online chats (and I'm not denying that we can make some firm friends through the internet and really appreciate the friends I've connected with online). But, when all is said and done, it is those friends who we know will pop round with some hot soup when we are feeling rough, or take our kids for a play date when we desperately need some time to ourselves who can be most valuable in our day-to-day lives.

So how good are you at letting your friends know how much they mean to you? And how well do you notice when they need you to do those spontaneous acts of kindness for them?

Why not go out of your way today to show a friend that you love the fact that they are in your life?