The Characteristics of a True Friend: What Are They?

Friendships are very important to me. And I trust they are very important to many of you also. This brings up a question that I’d like to hear everyone weigh-in on.

What are the characteristics of a true friend?

The New Testament talks about friends and friendships, and it’s mostly positive. Albeit, friendships can be unhealthy and compete with the Lord and His interests. But that’s not our purpose here. We’re looking at friendships in a positive light, as the New Testament mostly does.

John the Baptist is called “the friend of the Bridegroom [Jesus].”

Jesus called His disciples His friends.

Lazarus is called Jesus’ friend.

Abraham was the friend of God.

John in his third epistle greets his friends.

Paul went to his friends to refresh himself on his way to Rome.

So what characterizes a true friend?

Please be specific. As in . . . “a true friend will do such and such in such and such situations or will not do such and such in such and such situations.”

There are about four or five characteristics that quickly come to my mind when I think about true friendship, but I’d like to hear yours first.

Update: Click here to read my answer to the question – What Makes a True Friend? 5 Characteristics




  1. Greg says

    Hi. Just ordered The Day I Met Jesus. Very Excited! David and Jonathon were true friends in history. David was an enemy of the state, to be hunted and executed by King Saul but God knit Saul’s son Jonathon and David’s heart together. Jonathon loved David as his own soul. ! Sam 18. David takes in crippled Mephibosheth to his table, Jonathons son, instead of eradicating the former King Sauls line. Jesus has accomplished all this and more for us, seating us at Fathers table. We ought do the same for others. (where mercy can be shown ).

  2. James Burch says

    A friend spends time with you where you live.
    A friend shares in dialogue, knowing when to speak and when to listen, but cares enough to break the rules while still respecting boundaries.
    A friend breaks bread with you.
    A friend steps over the ugly in you.
    A friend calls(communicates)you often.
    A friend is hard to develop in today’s culture.

  3. Gioia Morris says

    A couple of years ago my answer would have been different – today my understanding of a true friend is this:
    A true friend shares a common understanding of the pursuit of the eternal purpose of God. He/she understands that he no longer lives but that Christ lives through him and realizes that “two” is more powerful then “one” in displaying the glory and splendour of the creator and Lord Jesus in this world.

  4. BobbyJo Newell says

    Thanks looking forward to the response Frank. As I shared on facebook some quotes from C.S. Lewis about friendship, I also believe we don’t pick each other it just happens, God puts it together, and then we love, live and learn from it! 😉
    Following quotes I ran into online from C.S. Lewis:
    “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

    Friendship Quotes

    “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

    “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

    “What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.”

    “In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

  5. Michael says

    I think George Eliot summed it up with this quote: “Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.”

  6. says

    Poem – A True Friend

    To find a true friend is rare
    A friend that in not jealous
    And who is always fair
    A friend that champions you
    And who really cares

    A friend like this understands who you are
    You have freedom to speak your mind
    And you stay in touch even from afar
    This friendship is made truly great
    When both of you can shine, each a different star

    by Christina Morley

  7. Judy Gale says

    I think one important aspect of being a “true friend” is the willingness to live within the tension of differences without abandoning the friendship.

  8. Jay says

    A true friend does not say anything about you when you are absent, that you wouldn’t be fine with hearing, if you were present.

  9. Jim Puntney says

    Marni seems to sum the question up quite well.

    I might add this scenario. A true friend would give you the cookie that wasn’t dropped on the floor, even if you wouldn’t know the difference.

  10. says

    A true friend is never afraid of you, and never inspires fear in you. Friends help each other to courage rather than discouragement. Their love and loyalty makes bearable much of the sin and sorrow in this world. But even true friends fail at the things they promised never to fail at, so the truest friends are those who share all the grace they can find back and forth with one another early and often.

  11. Susan Throop says

    A true friend is interested in you and listens to you without interuption. They’re not self-centered and focused on themselves. This friend keeps their word. They ask you questions about your life and background.

  12. Daniel Z says

    Great posts everyone. Thank you all. Frank, this was a great topic. I am remineded of 1 Cor. 13 “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love never fails.” This is the character of Jesus Christ. May this be expressed through us in all our relationships. Amen.

    • Jay says

      I wanted to say that many things that come to mind are not only for “true friends”, but, the right thing for anyone to do in some situations. Such as –come to you and ask your side of the story when they hear a rumor about you…and let the tale bearers know that you don’t approve of the gossip.

  13. says

    a true friend is someone i can be my true self with including the good, the bad and the ugly of my true self. i know i’m a true friend to someone when they can be who they are with me stripped of their public persona (or online).

    sometimes i long for someone to be my true friend, but they are not willing for that. they remain in the “just friends” category. In my life experience true friendship between two human beings is rare and distinct above all other friendships. It is to be treasured. I like to think that Jesus says He calls us his true friends, people who he can be his true self with and we with him.

  14. fiumdcwesley says

    Couple of things come to mind for me. A friend and mentor once described Christian friends as “those who challenge the vices you love, and those who help you claim the gifts you don’t want to claim.” Also, friendship I think puts caring for the person and the relationship ahead of being “right” and so creates a possibility for grace, forgiveness, and growth…

  15. Paula says

    My true friends:
    -tell it like it is. We’ve had many uncomfortable conversations, but always with the goal of healing or enlightenment.
    -help me when I am overwhelmed.
    -accept help from me when they are overwhelmed, and aren’t afraid to ask.
    -don’t agree with me on every issue, but aren’t threatened by that. We accept each other.

  16. Betsy says

    A true friend is that rare person who will stand beside you even when the trial you are going through takes years to resolve. Your friend will not EVER show you that he is sick of your trouble and being there for you (even when he is!!). It encourages you and lifts you up just knowing that this person believes in you and knows that you will finish the race. Steadfastness, I guess, would be the word.

  17. Pam Hunter says

    I’ve thought about this very question for a lot of years. And I’ve come to conclude that a friend is:
    1. Someone who loves me
    2. And loves God
    3. And will tell me the truth

    There needs to be definition to ‘love’ and it is obviously more than just liking someone or even God. But when you truly love someone, it doesn’t mean that you’ll just burst out with truth. It means more that you will be faithful with the truth. We have a friend who prayed for 9 months over something he saw in our family, before he brought it up to us. It had to do with our passion in parenting having deminished by the time our last born came along. His love for us wouldn’t allow him to just let us miss a big piece of truth. His words definitely confronted our thinking, which confronted our behaviour, and put us back on track with finishing the job of training ALL our children well. Our ‘last born’ is now 29 and is a Very good friend of ours. And our Friend remains a best friend of ours.

    I’m also of the opinion that the people we fellowship and worship with should be becoming our ‘Friends’.

  18. Paul says

    Four years ago this past March 16th, the front pages of the newspapers and TV stations plastered the photo of a friend of mine all over them. We had officiated high school basketball together for more than 10 years. He had been arrested and charged with several serious crimes, of which he plead guilty, and for which he was sentenced to 20 years. Every one who knew him was in shock, including me. He is ineligible for parole. He will be 65 years old when he is released. One week after his arrest I sensed the Lord asking me, “Will you be his friend?” His brothers do not visit him and his wife is divorcing him. Of his four children only one has paid him a single visit. I visited him every week for 13 months in the County Jail before he was transferred to prison, which is now a 4 hour drive one way from where I live. When I am in the States I see him every month. I send him letters from Uganda, a subscription to World magazine, Frank Viola books, and drive his aging parents to and from the prison. I’m not a great guy. It’s just that the Lord wants to teach me what a friend is. “A friend loves at ALL times,” (Proverbs 17:17)

  19. Ryan Holt says

    A true friend is willing and eager to give Christ to you. Whether it’s time, money, an ear, a word, love, etc….they consider what’s theirs as yours and are ready to supply you with Christ in them. I have found that I have nothing of myself to give. I don’t have love to give you. I have Jesus, and His love is bursting forth from me!!!! He is our everything!!!! YEAH!

  20. says

    A friend will esteem your life higher than his own, speak the truth in love, and lay down his life for yours. “Jn 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. “1st Jn 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

  21. Kathy says

    A true friend is one whom:
    You can trust.
    Listens when you speak and values your word.
    Stands with you against all odds.
    Carries your pain in his heart.
    Will wipe away your tears as his tears flow.
    Know your hear perhaps better than you do yourself.
    Covers you when harm comes.
    Tells you the truth and if it hurts; you know it hurts him more.
    Understands a mistake and forgives.
    Smiles because of your smile.
    Laughs because of your laugh.
    Sacrifices to help you.
    Endures to the end without thought of cost.
    Will give his life so that you may live.
    A true friend is true love.

  22. jrust says

    someone who continually lays down their ambitions, doctrines, and ego for the sake of Christ’s body. someone who is willing to lose their own life in order to find it with you, in Him.

  23. V. says

    A true friend shows up when others leave; sticks around in hard times. A true friend loves all the time.

  24. Angela says

    Wow, everyone has great things to say.

    I will add that a true friend is one that will come over and help you work on something if you need it, and knows that you will come over if they need you.

  25. Erindvr says

    Loyalty- always having your back, even when you suck a little bit. And never stabbing u in it.
    Dependability- I think it’s a rare person that will make time to fill ur needs even when it takes away from them. When someone makes a sacrifice of themselves for me, it’s a stunning display of friendship.

  26. Chris says

    A true friend will sacrifice any freedom they may have if it would cause you to stumble!

    A true friend will tell you the truth!

  27. says

    A true friend has your interests on his/her mind above his/her own interests and well being.

    A true friend will tell you the truth no matter how much it may effect him/her.
    In my opinion a true friend will tell you the truth even if it may effect the relationship. That is, if it’s a reproof. Not something like, “Your nose is awfuly large”, or, “I think the carpet in your house is ugly”. More like, “Bro, you gotta quit doing such and such, you’re hurting people.” Stuff like that.

  28. Emory says

    A true friend listens with empathy, and speaks the truth. A true friend makes time available and gives energy to getting to know you better even when you have known each other for years.

  29. Marni says

    It is interesting you post about this topic today – and this is the very issue God is working with me on right now. And I took the liberty of looking at the etymology of the word friend, and found it means “to love, to favor.” Considering this, there are more friends in my life than I realized – because I love and favor many people in my life. Until now, I was very confused. Because being a friend is not about how much one calls the other, or how often one hangs out with the other, or what you know about one another – or whatever. It merely means to love and to favor another when you “friend” another – period. And in that love, respect, honesty, sincerity and honor will be revealed.

    And this is an awesome revelation today – because I was reminded of something today. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24) For if you look at the word companion – it is really not the same etymology as the word friend. For companion means “a fellow, or mate” – whereas fellow is one who is connection ins some fashion with business ventures. And mate is one who you basically break bread with. I believe we easily, in the English language, confuse companion and mate for friendship – and it muddles up the whole scriptures where it uses this; and creates an ambiguity of the message God speaks to us.

    Friendship has nothing to do with finances, or just breaking bread – it has to do with sincere, unequivocal love and being in favor of someone else. God is our friend because He loves us – and in turn, as a people, we ought to be friends to everyone we meet (sharing the gift of love that has been shared with us).

  30. Elmo Shangnaster says

    John 15:15 speaks of transparency to me, and maybe that is the best measure of true friendship.

  31. Tara Nachelle says

    a true friend encourages growth, forgiveness, honesty, doing what ones knows is just and speaks words of truth over you in thoughts, prayers and in face-to-face encounters, in all situations (mountains or valleys). But a true friend also knows when nothing needs to be said at all. And understands when you too have nothing to say, nothing to give, and don’t know where to go.

  32. April says

    True friends stick with you and encourage you when you’re going through a rough time.

    True friends can speak the truth to each other and encourage each other to grow.

  33. Abby says

    A true friend is one who actually cares about you day in and day out… one who is there for you in times of trouble… one who can share your joy… one who prays for you… one who has your best interest at heart… one who loves you (even when they may not love your ways)… one who brings you chicken soup when you are sick… one who gives you their shoulder to cry on in times of need… one who shares a bond with you that no one can break.

    Hmmm… this sounds like our wonderful God and Jesus Christ. Though, He brings me chicken soup “for the soul” when I’m sick through His Word. 😉

  34. Daniel Z says

    A true friend listens carefully when you open your heart to him- and is willing to open his heart to you freely.
    A true friend expresses loyalty by not speaking anything negative behind your back. He may even stand up for you when others speak agianst you wrongfuly.

  35. LouAnn says

    A friend is someone who wants to spend time with you. If they are busy with their lives they still attempt to communicate. They grab time from their busy lives to have coffee with you… call you on the phone, at least. They are loyal, “friendly”, and share their talents. If you have done anything to offend them, they let you know right away so you can discuss it. A friend laughs with you and cries with you. They support you in your ministry.
    A friend DOES NOT try to sell you anything!

  36. Dallas says

    A friend will bail you out of jail. A TRUE friend will be sitting in the cell next to you planning a way to escape…

  37. Emily says

    I just can’t resist because I’m experiencing this first hand…. A true friend is one that will try to understand and listen to your impassioned sharing on organic church and authentic community- even if they are still very much institutionalized :-)

  38. alam says

    Honesty, Integrity, Truthfulness, Loyalty, Faithfulness – and the ability to laugh and cry (blokes too!) without embarassment.

  39. Linda in Los Angeles says

    A true friend will share the love of Christ with you: will be honest enough to point out an error but with love if you are going the wrong direction; will love you unconditionally according to the ways of God; will encourage and support you without being manipulative; will be open to you as you should be to him; would willingly lay down his life for you in dire circumstances; will put your needs above his own. These are some of the things a true friends will do and it almost looks like a marriage. Then again, if the person you plan to marry is not first your best friend, marriage should not be an option.

  40. Burt says

    A true friend walks in transparency, vulnerability, availability, dependability and unconditional love.

  41. says

    There are some good points here. I particularly like Erin’s points – very true
    For me a true friend is someone you can lean on when the going gets tough but doesn’t have to feel needed to be your friend (ie your not there to feed their need to only feel relevant when helping some poor soul).
    A true friend is a good encourager and seeks the best in you.
    A true friend is someone who you love to spend time with

  42. mark says

    A true friend creates space to spend time with you (facebook doesn’t count as quality time).

    A true friend speaks the truth in love, in a “this hurts me as much as it hurts you” kind of way.

    A true friend accepts you and doesn’t push any agenda.

    A true friend encourages you without lying.

    A true friend answers your phone call at ANY time, day or night.

  43. says

    a true friend says i love YOU more than I love your ideals, theology, belief systems. a true friend gives you space when you need it, but never lets you feel abandoned. a true friend knows how to challenge you without condemnation. a true friend loves you in spite of the things you do/don’t do…instead of loving for the things you do/don’t do. a true friend sees the best about you, even when everything else about you looks dark. a true friend knows you still have skin on, but honors you as one who carries Christ.

  44. says

    A true friend is always honest even when being honest is difficult and unpopular.

    A true friend knows that you are going through something simply by the tone in your voice or your emails.

    A true friend knows the right thing to say AND the right time not to say anything. There is something beautiful about silence when words just aren’t enough.

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