I’ve been reading and hearing more and more about the problem of loneliness many people are experiencing. 

For example, here’s what a listener to our You Were Made for This podcast recently wrote:

“Now almost 40 years old, I’m so frustrated by the fact that I don’t have any real, close friendships… it sounds so silly, but it’s my reality! I don’t know how to make and keep friends.” 

For someone without close friendships, I think it’s helpful to think about what kind of friends you want. Someone without friends tends to settle for anyone who shows signs of wanting me as a friend.  I think there’s a better approach, however. We don’t have to just “settle.”

What to look for in a friend

When feeling lonely because of a lack of close friendships it’s helpful to ask ourselves, what kind of friend do I want?  For me, I look for one important thing in a friend. It’s shared values.  

Here’s an example. In episode 198 of our podcast, I talked about one way we can develop deeper relationships is to read books on the subject. I gave a couple of recommendations and got this response from Linda, a retired  missionary living in North Carolina:

“John, Thank you for these book blurbs. I think writing book recommendations is a great way to CARE FOR MISSIONARIES. It’s always helpful to have the filter of a friend. Missionaries back on home assignment are often overwhelmed with things that need doing as they travel long distances to connect with friends and family. So getting a jump on a few top-notch books to take back for their next term can save hours of searching. I’m always keeping alert for excellent reads, so thanks for your suggestions. They can be valuable time and life savers.”

Linda’s values stand out in her comments. Caring for missionaries, helping people who feel overwhelmed, thinking about the difficulties others may be going through, and considering practical things to help people.

People like Linda are the kind of people I’d like to be friends with. I like her values.

What values do you want to see in a friend?

Here’s another type of person I’d like to be my friend. In a Facebook news feed recently, there was a post about NBA hall of fame basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just sold his 4 championship rings, 3 MVP Trophies, and other memorabilia for 2.8 million dollars, with the proceeds going to a youth education program.  

Kareem said, ‘when it comes to choosing between storing a championship ring or trophy in a room, or providing kids with an opportunity to change their lives, the choice is pretty simple: Sell it all.’”  

I find his implicit value of humility winsome, as well as his explicit value of generosity. I’d like to be friends with people who have values like these.

This more recent story about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reminds me of a quote of his that I mentioned in episode 056  of the podcast, 

Go out and make friends with people who don’t look like you.

This is another value I appreciate in a friend – not limiting ourselves to relationships with people only like me. 

Your friends now

What are the values held by your current friends?  Do they align with yours?  If not, look for people who share your values. It will give you the best chance of finding potential life-giving friends, And the best chance to overcome loneliness.

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Our blog posts and You Were Made for This podcast are sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry.