An important quality to look for in a friend is reflective thoughtfulness. It will help us become more reflective and thoughtful ourselves. It's the topic for today's episode, “An Important Quality to Look for In a Friend.”

Before we get into today’s program I want you to know this is the second last episode of season 5 of You Were Made for This. Next week, September 1, concludes season 5 with episode 120. Then the following week, the first Wednesday after Labor Day here in the United States, Season 6 will begin.

Unlike last year, there is no break between Season 5 and 6. I mentioned last year there’s a rhythm I feel when summer comes to an end, and the kids go back to school. I also used to go back to school when I was a teacher for 7+ years. And I can’t get that rhythm out of my system.  For me, September is the start of all things new, even more so than January first. I can already feel the back-to-school adrenaline ramping up production in my body.

I wonder if any of you have these same back-to-school feelings.

Well on to today’s program

When our kids were little we used to talk to them about what qualities to look for in choosing a friend. And for the most part, they did a fine job of picking friends that brought out the best in them, and vice versa.

It’s now decades later and I’m thinking about the same thing about my choice of friends. There’s a list of virtues I think most of us would agree upon, so there’s no need to go into those. But there is one other quality I’ve grown to appreciate in people lately. A quality I’ve become increasingly aware of that I haven’t paid as much attention to in the past.

Keep listening to learn what I’ve grown to value more in people, and what you could be looking for as well to add more depth to your relationships

How I stumbled upon this one quality to look for in a friend

One of the things I enjoy about doing this podcast is getting feedback from listeners and my interaction with some of you.

Just recently I saw a common thread from podcast responses from two listeners, along with one Facebook post from another listener and friend. All three of them stimulated my thinking because each demonstrates an important quality I appreciate in a friend

A friend’s response to episode 115 on becoming more self-aware

The first one comes from Darlene, a listener and family friend, in response to episode 115 on becoming more self-aware. I’ll put links to any of the episodes I mention today in the show notes. Here's what Darlene said, quoting from that 17th-century nun’s prayer I talked about in that episode:

“'Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places'. One of my favorite lines in Sister Olivia’s wise, sweet, deep, meaningful, spunky prayer!”

Darlene then goes on to say,

“Thinking of your friend as he and his daughter mark the first year without their beloved wife and mom. It is only grace that carries you through and into living in the changes such loss brings to the soul. “

Her comments are in reference to my friend Martin, who lost his wife Suzanne to a brain aneurysm on August 8th, a year ago. Both of them served as missionaries in China and Germany before moving to Chicago. I spoke of them in episodes 71 and 72.

The quality I appreciate about this friend’s response to episode 115

I appreciate Darlene’s reflective thoughtfulness. It’s the important virtue I’ve come to appreciate more and more when I see it in my friends, reflective thoughtfulness.

  • For example, she quotes the line from the prayer in episode 115, “Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places.” She found it, sweet, deep, and meaningful. You can tell it impacted her. How thoughtful of her to let me know, and in turn, all of you as well.
  • She remembered the impact Suzanne’s death had on Janet and me and still has. She remembered and acknowledged our loss. Remembering is such an important part of deepening relationships with people. Remember the ORA principle we keep talking about? Observe – Remember – Act
  • And then her comment, It is only grace that carries you through and into living in the changes such loss brings to the soul. What a caring and heartfelt response that comes from thoughtful reflection upon the deep experiences others are going through.
A friend’s response to episode 110 relationships we didn’t choose

Here’s a second example of reflective thoughtfulness from another listener. Two days after episode 110 went live I got a text from my friend Randy in Pittsburgh.

Episode 110 is one about relationships we didn’t choose, and how many of us are shaped by the relationships of people who chose us, but we didn’t choose them. Like our parents, for example. The main point of that episode is Be kind to people who didn’t choose to have a relationship with you, but who have one with you anyway. It will bring out the best in you.

Here’s what Randy wrote:

“Good morning John,

“I loved this week’s podcast. In its own way, poking around at some deeper things I need to reflect on more. It’s been a hectic week, so I’m looking forward to listening to it again.

The quality I appreciate about this friend’s reaction to episode 110

I appreciate Randy’s reflective thoughtfulness.

  • The episode stirred something within him
  • “Some deeper things I need to reflect on more”
    I love his word choice, “poking around, deeper things I need to reflect on more, and then looking forward to listening to it again.
  • A thoughtful person thinks like this. They reflect. They take the time to do so
  • The thoughts of others, stimulate thoughts of his own. Not to talk about them yet, but to explore them more internally.
A Friend’s Facebook Post About Simone Biles and the 2021 Summer Olympics

Finally, here’s a third example of reflective thoughtfulness. Another of my friends is also a listener to this podcast. Her name is Kat. I was struck by several things she wrote recently, not in response to a podcast episode, but by something she posted on Facebook the last week in August during the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Her posts were about gymnast Simone Biles pulling out of several Olympic events for mental health reasons. Here are a few excerpts from her posts”

Part of the reason I'm posting this as I'm curious what people think, [especially those who have studied things like you], so thanks for chiming in. I hadn't thought about the ongoing effects from the sexual assault

I'm interested not just in the individual side of this but the team side too. I don't think if Tom Brady had said he couldn't play in the Super Bowl or (the younger) Giannis the NBA championship due to mental health issues the reaction would have been as positive and understanding. There are a lot of factors to all this.

I don't think anyone here is disagreeing with you or criticizing her decision. And it makes sense to me that it's more dangerous for gymnasts. The more I think about the situation she's in, the more my heart goes out to her!!

Thinking through implications of an issue

The point I'm making is how much of a generational shift there has been with all this. For example, I'm sure my brother, who coaches softball, has had or definitely now will have some of his players take “mental health days,” even though that sport isn't life-threatening as gymnastics, except for maybe freak accidents?? That would have been inconceivable when I was playing.

There's also the somewhat separate issue of how Biles said she wanted to address the struggle when she pulled out of the team event, saying she wanted to “focus on herself.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of being mentally healthy! And doing what we can towards that end. But I think we're forgetting how much of a shift we've had over the past few years on this topic, elevating it above almost everything else? and also the way we go about it- like saying all we need is time to “focus on myself.”

And for the record, I love talking about and processing through stuff like this, so thanks for chiming in

The quality I appreciate about this friend’s reaction to Simone Biles

I appreciate Kat’s reflective thoughtfulness in her Facebook post

  • At one extreme people are criticizing Biles for letting her country down by withdrawing from competition to focus on her mental health. While others applaud her for paying attention to her body, recognizing her limits, and making a hard decision that she knew would not please everyone.
  • Kat threw out her thoughts and observation for the purpose of stimulating dialog about this complex issue, not to champion one point or the other.
  • What other people had to say helped her to see more about the issue than she originally considered
  • She takes a historic look at the issue, talking about a generational shift when it comes to individual responsibility and self-care.
So what does all this mean for YOU and me?

How can we use what you’ve heard today to improve the relationships in our lives?

We can do ourselves a big favor by using the good we see in others as models of the good we want to develop in ourselves. For example:

  • We can be more thoughtfully reflective like Darlene, and let people know how what they say and do impact us for the good.
  • Like her, we can remember what people told us in the past and reference it now in the present, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
  • We can draw a connection between what we and others experience with the involvement of God in the affairs of mankind. Like when she talked about grace caring us through changes that bring loss to our soul.
  • We can also be more thoughtfully reflective like Randy, and let the experiences of others speak to things going on within us. Even if it’s just to “poke around more,” as Randy says, about issues that deserve more reflection.
  • We can be more like Kat and invite people to a place of reflective thoughtfulness to dialog about important issues, as she did on Facebook with the Simone Biles story.
  • Just as Kat did, we can go beyond surface issues that everyone talks about, and instead talk about the meaning and implications beyond the obvious. For example, in the Biles story, consider the larger issue of the interplay between perseverance in the midst of adversity, responsibility to one’s group, self-care, people-pleasing, and personal safety.
  • We can think and discuss complex issues like this as a way of growing and learning from others.
Here’s the main point I hope you remember from today’s episode

Whatever important qualities we look for in a friend, develop and nurture those same qualities in ourself. Be for others what you want them to be for you.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode.


In closing, if you found this podcast helpful, please follow us from wherever you get your podcasts if you haven’t already done so.

I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to spend a little more time being thoughtfully reflective, so that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Goodbye for now.

Related episodes you may want to listen to

031: The Rhythms of our Relationship with Time

071: How to Help a Grieving Friend

072: What I Learned from a Grieving Friend

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