How do you know who your lifelong friends are?

Most of us have a sense of who our lifelong friends are, but if you’re like me, you wonder whether your sense is accurate. Frankly, I’ve been surprised in the last few years about the friendships in my life which have endured, ended, and expanded. You see, I thought I knew who my lifelong friends were. And I was wrong.

There are some tests which reveal the truth:

  • A life crisis reveals those friends who walk out and those who walk in.
  • Friendships which continue after a major move (and those which end) will shock you.
  • A major mistake or disappointment will reveal the people who love you versus the people who love your success.

Maybe it was my inexperience or maybe it was a social media inflicted wound which confused me about friendship.

Social media makes this friendship stuff super complicated because it creates an alternative reality where connections can continue on for years to come, even after a friendship would have otherwise ended.

It’s actually natural for friendship to be seasonal, based on shared location and experience. When it comes to friendship, social media confuses us into thinking something fake is genuine and something uncommon is common.

As I’ve stepped back recently to process how a few friends have gone above and beyond in our shared connection, while others have faded away, here’s what I’m learning.

1. Don’t judge a friendship too quickly.

I’ve learned this lesson the hard way as I was wrong in my sense about a person and our friendship. I wish I’d reserved judgment and been more patient. When I look back now, I see that other people were trying to offer me additional information about this particular person and their relationship with him. But, since I didn’t see those things in my relationship, I assumed I was special. In the long run, my experience began to match theirs and I wish I hadn’t brushed off their perspectives so quickly.

2. Friendships are real even if they aren’t lifelong.

Sometimes, the connection is because of proximity, a season in life, or something shared. When those friendships change or end, it doesn’t devalue what was shared. It does mean that we need to be more intentional with how we use the term “friend” and what it means.

Through social media, we can carry on a connection long after the friendship has changed. We often tell ourselves that losing touch or growing apart means what we shared wasn’t real. However, not that long ago, a move across the country could have meant the end of a friendship. For centuries, we made real friends, but few ever lasted a lifetime.

3. Healthy friendships involve give AND take.

Unhealthy relationships are all give or take, but not both. Pay attention when for more than a season you’re all one or the other. Also, be careful the story you tell yourself about your giving or taking. And vet that story with others who can be objective!

I’m so grateful for friends who showed up when I felt like my life circumstances were too much or burdensome to those around me. Because of the way my friends supported me during my crisis seasons, I can now let my friends know that I want to know about their burdens and struggles in their challenging seasons too. We often hold back from sharing our struggles because we forget friendships involve give and take. Some seasons will include us leaning on others, while some seasons will include us doing the leaning.

RELATED: Why I No Longer Fight for Friendships

4. Lasting friendships are gifts!

After spending time with a friend recently, my wife and I remarked at how surprised we were by the evolution of this particular friendship. While other friendships we once thought were rock-solid have crumbled, this one emerged out of thin air and has blossomed beyond our wildest dreams. When a relationship shouldn’t endure and it does, pause and give thanks for that gift!

Andy Stanley once said, “Unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude.” It has often been said that feeling grateful and not saying it is like wrapping a present but never giving it to the other person. We often wait until the funeral or a life-changing diagnosis of a friend to share words of appreciation and gratitude for their friendship.

Why wait?! If lasting friendships are gifts, then send a thank you note or take a few moments to communicate your gratitude for that particular person. I have yet to meet someone who is over-encouraged, so help fill up that bucket in someone else’s life today.

You know, friendships are challenging and wake-up calls about them are even tougher!

But the ones which last – which are the source of incredible gifts and moments – those make the challenges worth it.

I hope you’ll keep investing in your friendships. Life truly is better when it is shared!