Be the Friend You Wish You Had

Recently, I read that 70% of pastors don’t have any close personal friends. I have quoted this figure publicly and several pastors have confided to me that it is true for them. They admitted that they don’t have any close personal friends. This made me very sad. I think it is also true of CEOs and other leaders as well.

Three Close Friends - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #9622620

Photo courtesy of ©

Why is this true?

I know that for years, I didn’t think I needed any close friends. I assumed that my colleagues at work and the people I went to church with were enough. I finally woke up the fact that I didn’t really have any close personal friends. All of them were either dependent on me in some way or simply acquaintances.

Since that time, I have been much, much more intentional about friendships. In fact, this is one of the “accounts” in my Life Plan. I have several great friends, most of whom live in my neighborhood. We get together on a regular basis and support and encourage one another.

When I mentioned this in a talk I gave recently at Catalyst West, one brave soul asked, “But what if you don’t have any friends? Where do you start?”

My answer? Be to others the friend you wish you had. It’s that simple.

For example, here are the characteristics I look for in a close friend. I want someone who …

  • Shows up for me when I am in a crisis.
  • Listens empathetically without judging.
  • Is willing to pitch in when I am too embarrassed to ask.
  • Affirms me when I doubt myself.
  • Reminds me of who I am, when I forget.
  • Celebrates my wins and mourns my losses.
  • Remembers the things that are important to me.
  • Trusts me with their secrets.

Do you wish you had that kind of friend? Well, God says that you reap what you sow (e.g., see Galatians 6:7).

If you want this kind of friend in your life, then go BE this kind of friend to others. You might be surprised to see what happens.

I am on vacation this week and offline. I will not be participating in the comments as I usually do. However, my daughter, Megan Hyatt Miller will be moderating the comments on my behalf.
Question: What are the characteristics of the friends you have—or wish you had? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Tim Watkins

    This is very true and includes great advice. Eventhough I have many close friends, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and will apply it principles more in my life. Thanks for sharing from your heart.

  • Brent Trickett

    Thanks for this reminder Michael. I have found that because I am in ministry it is hard for people I know to relax and be themselves. As I look back at my early years of ministry I realize that I often try to make it look like I have it all together. It wasn’t until I started being honest with the people around me about what was really going on in my life that they started doing the same. Now I have a great group of friends that I can just hang with and be myself.

    • Anonymous

      Brent, great point. I like what you said about how your vulnerability made it safe for your friends to share themselves as well. Excellent reminder.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Go on Brent

  • Jeff Randleman

    Excellent post. There is so much truth here. I’ve found that in ministry, it is extremely difficult to develop very close friendships. I’ve got 3-4 guys that know me well. It’s enough.

  • Chaplain Bill

    While I have not been a pastor for nearly 17 years, I am still employed as a minister. I can say the majority of those I consider to be close friends are not in a position of ministry. I have found it to be easier to be vulnerable with those who are not in full=time ministry. I think the reason is I never wanted to be perceived as an emotional or spiritual weakling.

    • Anonymous

      Bill, I bet that is more common than you know. Thanks for bringing the heart of the struggle to light.

  • iCHRCH (Rich Langton)

    I love this post as it really focuses on an area I am quite passionate about. I always encourage my blog community to “find their people”, those friends that will do exactly the things indicated in this post, that we all should be doing if we are to be good friends. So many folks want others to love on them, but they’re not willing to do so the same for others!!

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Weird yet true Rich

  • Nuruddin Abjani

    Michael, THANKS!

    You are making a difference in people’s lives, INCLUDING MINE!

    God bless you…


  • Anonymous

    There have been times I have wondered if I was giving too much in some friendships, but I have come to realize that I never give too much if I give what I would want to be given in the same situation. Because of this I have a few very close friends that I could call at any time of day, and have for that fact. Thank you for this post.

  • Gail

    I agree that it is lonely at the top. At least in the corporate world you can have church and outside work friends. For pastors they may not know too many people outside church – which is their work, church and social life all in one.

    I think part of the problem is that leaders tend to have the strong, choleric personality types that aren’t the most friend attracting type of people.

    I also know, from experience, that sometimes being the friend you want isn’t a guarentee of getting close friends. I have prayed many times in my life for God to give me best friends. And He has, many times. Sometimes there has been a time in between friends who have left due to moving or life changes but they have always been replaced. I am very blessed now to see my best friends at work every day :)

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      When you say that “leaders tend to have the strong, choleric personality types that aren’t the most friend attracting type of people”, I too can relate that in mycurrent situation. Thanks for sharing Gail

  • G. Kevin Turner

    Thank for the helpful article. However, a significant and biblical quality of a friend has been omitted. The scripture informs us that, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”(KJV) The NIV renders this verse, “The wounds from a friend can be trusted but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverb 27:6

    Thank God for the tender mercies of someone who stays with you through all of life challenges and all of our sinful choices. I, for one, hunger for words of encouragement from those who know you best, particularly. Yet I know, that strong words of loving chastisement are the biblical charge. though not the exclusive quality of the true friend.

    Your brother in the Messiah,

    G. Kevin Turner

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  • Jcanepa

    I had a friend. I use the word had, because we got into an argument over who is right and wrong. It was my husbands BDay yesterday, and I told her and her BF about it about 3 times. When I make plans, I put it in my calendar. I follow through. They didn’t show or call, and were angry at me for not reminding them again. To me, I don’t think you should have to remind friends about important events in your life more than a couple times.

  • Oodihi

    I had a conversation about this with my sister last week. We are both in a transitional stage in our lives where we are out of college and in the “real world”. We are finding it takes a lot to make friends when they are not supplied to you by campus organizations/clubs. It takes real effort to BE the friend you want to have but I think intentionality is the key. Scheduling time to connect with people you meet and having the boldness to make the first approach is key. People generally respond in kind.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Wish you a great future and Godly connections.

  • James Pinnick

    Friends that I have are loving, undersating, and know when to back off when the time is needed. I am a widower.
    They love me the way I am, even with unverving grief sometimes.

    Thanks for the post!

    Author-The Last Seven Pages

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Genuine frienship is all about that.

  • Hillbruce

    I read some of the comments, and sadly, many people are expressing the same thing. Church people don’t really connect on an intimate level. How sad is that? As a congregation, we are connected in the most sacred way—as spiritual brothers and sisters. They should be the folks we are MOST connected with…not the people in the world. We talk about fellowship meals and fellowship time and fellowship circles….but…ask yourself–Are we really having true koinonia, true FELLOWSHIP as a body of believers, if we don’t really KNOW one another?

  • Kym

    Wow! Great post!

    I had a similar experience about 20 years ago. One day I realized that they were all acquaintanceships, some very intense, some very casual, but all just acquaintanceships.

    So I prayed and asked God to bless me with true friends that would stay in my life – regardless of our geography. I wanted friends that valued and believed similar things.

    One of the things He showed me was that I was doing lots of ministering, even a good bit of enabling, and that I wasn’t truly being a FRIEND. He also showed me that I needed to LET others befriend me. As long as I wanted to play mom, rescuer, etc, I was blocking potential friendships.

    Thanks, God, for showing me the way and blessing me with so many fabulous friendships that stand the test of time, distance, career changes, etc. Thanks, Michael, for spreading the word!

    Peace for a great vacation!


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  • Ken Stewart

    Thank you so much for this post. My partners and I just returned last week from two screenings of our documentary on male friendships. ( We were so encouraged by the discussions that followed our screenings from the men that attended. There was a deep desire to pursue intimacy in their friendships…and more importantly, what does real intimacy look like in the context of friendship? What was even more amazing is that we screened the film to two VERY diverse audiences (an academic group that focuses on gender studies and an evangelical, mid-west men’s group from a church) and the responses were equally honest.

    I hope that we (especially as men) continue to ask about friendship and the role that it should play in our lives. I believe that our lives are greatly enriched when we open ourselves up to ‘real’ friendship.

    My best!
    Ken Stewart

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  • Monique Charles

    very interesting comments  i will like to be a true friend because i am a pastor wife

  • Monique Charles

    yes a true friend will always stay by your side no matter what.
    As long as christ is in it , it will last,just remember what you give out you will get back.

  • czmorgan

    Wish that worked. Just get used, time and time again.

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  • Alfred Njobvu

    Am Pastor  from Malawi Central Africa,I was a muslim but God called me in 1998.I went to Bible School in 2003-2006 where i got my Diplom in Theology.I planted a church in 2010 and the church is growing step by step.Thank God for this connection to God be Grory.I need friends who can stand with me and help me in the minisrty with defferent resources to make the work of  God grow. 
    Yours faithfully, Alfred Njobvu  -