What does it take to be a true friend? Sacrifice would be the first word that comes to my mind. The greatest sacrifice is not your time, or your money, or the energy it takes to put into a friendship. The greatest sacrifice is that of emotion.
I have several wonderful friends who I know are willing to listen to me any time I have a problem or a concern. The heart is naturally bent toward self-centeredness and we love to talk about ourselves. Like many people, a challenge I face is being willing to listen to the trials of others and not talk about myself at all. Talking about ourselves keeps us from being involved in the lives of others while drawing them into our lives. It is entirely selfish!
Like you, I must practice the sacrifice of love and set myself aside to listen to the concerns of others and minister to their heart. This is the fulfillment of Phil 2!
If being a friend equals sacrifice and some of our friends "sacrifice" for us, then why do they constantly remind us of all they have done for us? My favorite kind of gift to give is the secret one that arrives with no note and no hint that I have sent it. There is something especially gratifying about ministering to another person without their knowledge it was you. They don't have that indebted feeling towards you and the temptation to indulge your flesh and remind them of your help is non-existent. Jesus taught that we are to be cautious of broadcasting our good deeds for the appreciation of others (Matt. 6:1-4)
Some people tend to want to take more than we are willing or able to give. I am speaking of the constraints placed upon us by time and distance and commitment and those who may not want to respect that. If you desire to be a friend to someone, respect their boundaries. Phone calls at very early or late hours, numerous phone calls in one day for hours on end do not make a friendship, they equal a hostage situation!
My old pastor said once that we are blessed if we have one or two true friends in our whole lives. While I am not sure his number was right, I think his point is right on. A true friendship takes years to develop and is composed of many levels of intimacy. We have numerous relationships and friend-type relationships but precious few of them are intimate enough to be long lasting.
Keep your expectations realistic if you want to be a friend. Many of the people you know are not those you would choose for friends but they come out of your work relationships and church associations. Some of those ties can bind deeply and if the circumstances that helped form the relationships change (job transfer, moving) you will find your friendships change as well. Having just moved to another State, I am experiencing this. What I am learning is I know who my "real" friends are because we stay in touch despite the distance.
I know that it is not realistic to maintain the depth of relationship with only a phone call or an occasional visit but we are not giving up. And regardless of where these relationships end up on earth, we will have all of eternity to rejoice and worship together in heaven.
Something else I will bring up in closing today; if you want to be a friend be wise in what you share about yourself and the depth of things you reveal to others. Some people reveal far more intimate details then many are ready to accept. Realize the constraints of propriety and learn to discern what level of sharing details is appropriate and in what situation.