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Draper Journal

The power of deep friendships: Nurturing connections and setting boundaries

Oct 09, 2023 03:49PM ● By Holly Curby

Friends Allison C. and Holly T. supporting me at my graduation for my master’s degree. (Photo courtesy of Holly Curby)

Remember sitting in school and reciting things such as “Roses are red. Violets are blue. If friends were flowers, I’d pick you.” Well, fast forward to today. If we were gathered together and I asked you what trait you look for in a friend, we would have many responses. From the basic “someone I enjoy spending time with,” to the deeper “someone who is trustworthy,” to even more in depth of “someone who gets me.” Reflect on the friendships you have in your life. Why are they your friend? 

According to speaker Kevin Lund, there are four stages of friendship:

1. Acquaintance. These are people we interact with, share fact-type info with them. They are different than a stranger in the sense of you see them more often so you build some sort of report with them. 

2. Peer friend. These are people you enjoy doing things with perhaps because you have similar interests or passions, or maybe because you find yourselves giving of your time in similar areas. Examples include a parent of your child’s close friend, or someone you go to church with or whom you have a class together at school. 

3. Close friend. A close friend hits your inner circle. What tends to differentiate a peer versus a close friend is more similar or shared values and goals in life. These are the friends who have seen you at your best and your worst (and vice versa). This is a friend you share much of life with, one who is going to support you in your ventures, and who will be your cheerleader. 

4. Best friend. This is your person—the one who you totally trust and confide in with nearly everything about life. The one you most likely spend the most time with—which has helped in developing that close bond and trust. This is one who you are 100% genuine, real and authentically you.

What can we do to develop these friendships? Friendships are like a funnel. There is plenty of room for many acquaintances in your life, but there are only a few spots for that best friend position. I have a plaque that hangs in my home that basically shares three reasons for a friendship:

• a reason

• a season

• a lifetime

So what boundaries do you have in place that will help you determine where people fit in your life? If you try to be everything to everyone you are going to drain yourself and have nothing left to give. At the same time, if you expose yourself to everyone you may end up with some hurt too. We also need to understand that a part of healthy relationships is embracing the friendship’s reason, season and overall length of time of friendship as a gift. Not all friendships will reside at the same level. They each have their own place in your life to be a healthy relationship. Knowing these levels helps create a mutual respect and trust, it provides clarity in understanding expectations within the friendship.

What kind of friend do you want to be? What time are you willing to give? What sacrifices and investments are you willing to make? What is important to you in friendship (what do you look for in a friend)? Once you have in mind where people fit, and what type of friend you want to be, perhaps good tools to apply are from the “Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The five love languages help you know what your friends need from you. Is it quality time together, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or even physical touch of a pat on the back, a high-five, or a hug?

Sometimes we can be fearful of past friendships that have left us scared to put ourselves out there in befriending someone again. Author Tim Keller said “to be loved, but not known is comforting, but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw us.”

I’d encourage you to think about those you have in your life. Who are ones you want to invest more in—to grow as close friends or perhaps even allow in as a best friend? Which friends might it be healthier to simply be at that acquaintance or peer level? Which friends are in your life for a reason, a season, or perhaps a lifetime? Acknowledging where people are, setting those boundaries for where they should be, figuring out what kind of friend you want to be so you can be intentional in your friendships, and then showing up in those friendships should set you on track for a successful, supportive and healthy friendship circle.

Want to learn more about friendships or even the five love languages? Visit or check out Holly’s Highlights podcast season two episode 18 and season three episode three. Holly’s Highlights podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts including Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Pandora and even “Alexa, play Holly’s Highlights podcast.” λ