The story of David’s friendship with Jonathan, son of Saul is one of the most beautiful and instructive on how to be a friend when you don’t get what you want but your friend does. Jonathan should have been the next king of Israel but he knew that it was not what God had ordained for him.

Instead, someone else, an unknown shepherd boy was chosen for the job. Jonathan could have bemoaned his fate and lashed out at David but he didn’t. They should have been enemies.

Instead, Jonathan’s soul was knit to David’s and he loved him as himself.

Theirs was a friendship that many of us today can only dream of. Yet God expects us to learn how to be good at friendship with Him and with each other.

Unlike David and Jonathan, we live in a time when friendships, and relationships in general, have become challenging to navigate. For example, today our achievements and good fortune can be broadcast to the whole world at just a click of a button.

We can invite the rest of the world to clap for us. We get our fill from strangers liking our social media feeds and posts. Who needs friends when you have social media, right?

The other side of that coin is the competition and jealousy this breeds. Where friendship used to be about connection and community, many today experience it as “who you know and what they can do for you”.

So how can we cultivate real friendships in a world that values popularity over character, significance over function?

Friendships always begin with us. In Proverbs, we are told that a man who has friends must himself be friendly. When we become the type of friends God wants us to become we become schooled in identifying fake friends and also recognizing any tendencies to be fake within ourselves.

Here are some 4 overlooked traits that real friends exhibit:

1. They Are Grateful For You

Paul writes to the Philippians, “I thank my God every time I remember you. This means the Philippians were never far from Paul’s mind. He loved them, not because of what they could do for him but because of who they were.

Real friends have no agenda. They value you for who you are and they are grateful that you exist and are part of their life.

2. They Are Accountable And Keep You Accountable

In a world where the lines between right and wrong are blurred, real friends are not afraid to speak the truth to you about themselves and about you. They do so with love and grace. We all have tendencies to compare and envy one another. Real friends will gently steer each other back on track by reminding each other of the truth. We are all valuable and significant.

3. They Will Celebrate You

When you are honored; when you are courageous or when you overcome a struggle, real friends will celebrate with you. They do this because they care about you and want you to succeed and be the best version of yourself. In the same way, they will suffer with you when you suffer. Being able to celebrate another is a trait that goes right to the nature of our heart and our motivations. Real friends are motivated by love.

4. They Will Stick Closer Than A Brother

I love the last part of the Proverbs we referred to earlier “…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”. Real friends are not fair weather in their disposition or their character. They stay with you when things are wonderful and when things are not like Jonathan did for David.

Real friends’ bonds and esteem will at times even prove stronger than familial kinship. In times of pain and struggle, they may do more for us than a brother would. We have Christ’s example for this.

Friendship is a beautiful gift and ministry. When we view it that way we respond to it from a place of appreciation and willingness to be real.

Do you have a friendship that you cherish? What qualities do you value in a friendship?