Frank Viola has written a couple of interesting posts on the subject. He lists five characteristics of true friends.
Five Characteristics of a Close (True) Friend
A close friend rejoices in your joys and sorrows over your pains. A true friend is not just sympathetic, they are empathetic. They share your feelings, weeping with you when you weep and rejoicing with you when you rejoice.
A close friend won’t defriend you if you disagree. Friendships are tested when there is a disagreement. But true friends don’t cut you off because of it. They may tell you what they think you need to hear and vice versa. But they will do it in such a way where you can receive it. The reason is because you know they love you unconditionally more than they love their views.
A close friend stays in regular contact with you. There are people who I’m friends with who contact me from time to time and vice versa. But a close friend this doth not make. Close friends communicate fairly regularly.
A close friend is someone whom you trust implicitly. They have earned your trust. Consequently, you don’t doubt that they have your back. And you don’t fear that they will stab you in the back. You trust them enough to confide in them about highly private and confidential matters. Close friendship brings with it disclosure (John 15:15).
A close friend will stand by you, defend you, even take a bullet for you when you’re under attack. To my mind, this is perhaps the highest measure of friendship or one of the rock-bottom “tests.” The posture of a true friend is, “If you hurt my friend, you’ve hurt me.” It is never, “Well, that person never did anything to hurt me, so it’s not my issue.” This attitude is what separates goats from black sheep. True friends stand with and stand up for each other.
~ Frank Viola
True friends are a rare thing. I once heard the line, “friends who cease to be, never were.” I agree with that.
I like the quote Viola uses at the beginning of his post.
“Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words.”
~ George Eliot
Feeling safe with someone about sums it up. Here are a few more quotes on friendship.
“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. – George Washington
I always felt that the great high privilege, relief and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing. – Katherine Mansfield
I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world. – Thomas Edison
The world is a lonely place without friends. You don’t need a roomful. All you need is that one person you can talk with who understands and who genuinely wishes the best for you. Real friends are priceless. Protect your friendships, because they need nurturing. They are a rare gift we should never take for granted.