I struggle with friendships. It seems that it was easier to make friends as a child than it is as an adult. So, I’ve been wondering about the various stages of friendship and how to move from one stage to the other.
My Childhood Friendship
When I was enrolled at a new school at the start of grade five, there were about four or five new students waiting to be assigned their new class. In the line up was one girl who I thought looked like she would be a nice friend to have. She was outgoing, laughing and talking with the others. She seemed, well, nice! I was pleased when she and I were both assigned to the same class.
Rebecca and I began to talk and play together at recess time. We were always together during school days and later, that expanded to visiting each other on evenings and weekends and spending summer days together.
It didn’t take long for us to become best friends as we moved through the stages of friendship without even realizing it. However, we weren’t exclusive as we were also friends with the other girls in our class. And you know what? I loved having friends! It was a long process for me but in the end, I had many friends, both in our class and from the other classes.
Rebecca and I remained friends for five years. When we were in grade eight, she was a bit on the wild side as she made friends with others who participated in activities that were meant for older teens. These friendships that she formed cost her her life just a few weeks before her 16th birthday. My heart broke that day as my best friend was gone forever.
My Adulthood Friendship
As an adult, I met another woman, Shirley, who was the daughter of a couple I knew at church. Shirley wasn’t a Christian when we met but she was aware of God through her parents.
Our friendship grew and shortly after we met, she made her commitment to Christ which gave us an even deeper bond. We seemed to move through the stages of friendship quite quickly after this as we reached the best friend level within months.
We now live over 3,000 miles apart but we still keep in touch through video chats and private messaging. Isn’t technology great?
When my husband and I moved to the West Coast of Canada, I hoped to find friends, much like the two major friendships I had in the past. But it’s been hard. At least, it has until I began to understand the stages of friendship.
The Six Stages of Friendship
To help us understand where we are at in our various friendships, let’s look at the stages of friendship to clear things up.
The six stages of friendship are:
- online friends
- casual friends
- close friends
- best friends
This stage is obvious as it’s when you don’t know someone at all. You may have seen her around or heard about her but she is a stranger to you. At this point, you may or may not move to the next stage.
Some people have many acquaintances that never progress to the Casual friendship level. The acquaintance stage consists of occasional contacts. You know each other by name or at least, you recognize their face. Some of us may have a harder time remembering names when we don’t know much about the other person.
If you believe that God is interested in your day, it is possible that this introduction to her is a divine appointment from Him. Let God help you choose your friends.
As an acquaintance, you are in the position of asking each other questions that have public answers, such as do you have any children? Or, even where do you work? Which church do you attend?
By asking such questions, you are showing an interest in her and that you’d like to learn more about her. And asking faith-based questions helps you to know if you are compatible on a spiritual level.
This is the time when you can practice what Dale Carnegie taught in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People: be a good listener! Don’t think about your next question until after you’ve heard everything that she said. Let her talk and you listen well! (While this isn’t a faith-based book, the principles of friendship and connecting with people is valuable. Click the link if you want to order your own copy from Amazon. This is not an affiliate link.)
Keep asking questions as that will help you get to know her better. Maybe you can meet up somewhere for coffee to continue the conversation.
3. Online Friendships
You may be wondering about online friendships. Perhaps you have met someone through social media that you’ve connected with. Thinking of what’s involved in the acquaintance stage, an online friend might be harder to move through the various stages, if at all.
However, that’s not to say that you can’t have online friendships or that they aren’t of any value. I’m not saying that at all. In fact, I have a few friends who I met through my blogger groups who I consider as friends. Over time, we have learned about each other, mostly from our blogging posts, but also from personal chats where we can learn more about each other.
One great thing about online friends is you know they are there at your fingertips. They may not be online when you are, especially if you live in different time zones but you can still expect a response from her when you send her a private message.
The other thing with online friendships is, you can have video chats through Facebook or even set up Zoom meetings to see each other ‘in person.’ I’ve done that a few times and it’s great!
If the majority of your friends are all online, then I caution you that they are not enough. You need more than what an online friendship can offer. It’s important to spend time together in person, and while technology offers video calls, it’s not the same. You need friends who can give you that personal touch, such as a hug, or a visit when you’re feeling down or bring a meal over when you’re not well. Online friendships aren’t able to meet these needs.
While I love my online friends and I pray for them, I don’t put undue expectations on our friendship because of the distance.
Make it a priority to establish real-time friends, not all online friends.
4. Casual Friends
After a few coffee visits with her, you may discover that your acquaintance with her is evolving into a casual friendship. You’ve discovered that you have common interests, likes and dislikes and you can now ask more personal questions such as her goals and dreams in life.
This is the time when you are discovering each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can encourage each other in your faith. Honesty and integrity are two traits that will surface as you learn more about each other. And you’re learning the cost of friendship costs with the investment of time.
Let her know you are praying for her, especially when she shares sensitive issues with you or is struggling with something. Let her see that you are trustworthy and dependable as well.
From time to time, you may even have prayer time together. Nothing will cement your friendship better than spending time together in prayer. You get to know someone quite intimately through prayer. You’ll soon find your friendship reaching the close friend stage.
Another activity you can do with her is to write out Scripture together. If she isn’t familiar with writing out whole books of the Bible, you can introduce her to that as you both experience a growth in your faith. You may also find that you’ll experience an unexpected result of praise and worship from writing out the Bible.
I love seeing her heart through praise, worship and prayer. Do you?
5. Close Friends
You’ve reached this point in your friendship through a closeness of sharing the same interests, goals, dreams, and faith. You’ve discovered that prayer has bonded you and cemented your friendship. Without Christ, it may be a struggle to have deep conversations.
As a close friend with her, you are able to share on a deeper level of your struggles and desires in life. You are each able to help the other become stronger in faith through continued prayer and Biblical encouragement. Your influence is powerful!
Remember when I mentioned earlier that I have been struggling with friendships since moving West?
Well, I thought that almost all the women I met were in the acquaintance stage. However, it seems that I have a small group of ladies who are in the close friend stage and I didn’t even realize it!
We don’t see each other often. In fact, I chat frequently with one of them online because we don’t live in the same city. I visit with another gal every now and then and still another one, I see whenever she comes back to this city as she has recently moved away.
And, I am seeing that there are a few others that are in the ‘casual stage’ who might be moving up the scale!
6. Best Friends
Some friendships jump from acquaintance to besties overnight it seems. As a best friend, you are each able to invest the time it takes to develop and maintain a solid friendship.
Having Christ in common means that you are able to help each mature in faith as you continue to share Biblical encouragement at a deeper level.
Your friendship is based on prayer for each other, honesty, integrity, and even humility as you bare each others’ burdens.
The Friend Scale
You may be wondering where your friends are on the friend scale…acquaintance or casual, close or best friends.
Actually, you may have several acquaintances, a few casual friends, many close friends, and one or two BFFs. And that’s okay!
All friendships requirement your time investment and if you’re spending all your time with all your friends, your family life can suffer. So, find the balance, asking God to help you with priorities.
I also believe that we have friends in different seasons of life. You may be going through a health challenge and so some friends may be closer to you during this time. Then when you’re going through another season such as the empty nest season, you may lean on other friends who have been there and can help you adjust.
You may not hang out with all your friends at the same time, but you will see them each when your heart is calling you to see them. You’ll know when that is.
That’s a Wrap
So, we’ve seen the six stages of friendship and can recognize where our friends are on that scale. However, there are always blurred lines between each of these stages so don’t confine yourself rigidly within them.
Having friends is important and even healthy for us. God is concerned with our friendships so always remember to include Him. Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
And, I’d love to hear from you about your friendships. Do you
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Cindy Barnes has been called by God in the early 80s to be a teacher of His Word. She is a serious student of the Word, focusing on the Inductive Bible Study Method since 2007. Her passion is to teach women how to study the Bible using this method. In addition, she desires for women to develop an intense yearning to draw closer to God through reading and writing out the Bible.
Cindy teaches hundreds of women in her private online Bible Study Group who express their joy of growing deeper in their spiritual walk.
You can stay in touch with Cindy on Facebook through 215 Ministry.