5 Marks of a Priceless Friend

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When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness–that is a friend who cares. – Henri Nouwen (emphasis added)


This quotation from the Dutch priest Henri Nouwen holds the key for relating to a friend or family member in pain.  A core group of support, the real friends I could ask for, the family members I always count on–they get it.

1. They mean the most because they stood with me when I had nothing to give. They stayed on principle, not for profit. The people close to me are a priceless treasure because they didn’t slip out when the opportunity presented itself.

2. They touch my wounds instead of handing me a prepackaged Band-Aid. When advice burned the wound and solutions intensified the pain, my friends forsook fixing things and focused on acknowledging the agony.

3. They are silent with me when the darkness is too deep for breathing. Words are cheap when you are bleeding out from a leg amputation or a gunshot wound. Inspirational quotes ring hollow if you can’t take a deep breath because of a panic attack.

4. They stay with me when I cannot endure being in my own head any longer. When the scariest thing in the world is having to be me, they choose to be with me.

5. They face the deepest fears with me: that I cannot control my mental illness or my physical health, that I will never be free from the darkness’s influence, and that the pain will always be on the brink of unbearable.

A real friend.

  • Not necessarily the one you’ve known the longest, but the one you can–and do–tell every gruesome memory and detail.
  • The one who visits you multiple times in the hospital, even when you are too sick to be good company or remember that they came.
  • The one who holds you while you cry night after night and doesn’t get impatient or patronizing.
  • The one who remains constant even when it’s not beneficial, pleasant, or easy.
  • The one who will listen without having to understand everything.
  • The one who waits days or weeks to hear from you and cheerfully picks up where you left off.
  • The one who disagrees with you on fundamental issues but focuses on your value as a child of God.

Thank you for caring instead of leaving and for touching me instead of trying to fix me.

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  1. These are the truest friends you will ever have and are to be treasured for the precious ones they are! God be with you throughout each day and all its trials Natalie! I think of you often and send a prayer up for you! I have been through some of those dreadfully dark times too so can empathise with you! God bless you! Leilani

  2. Natalie,
    This is stunning. Thank you for writing this. It’s so true. My biggest influences during my divorce were those people who just knew and it was an unspoken understanding that I was grieving and I needed them. I needed to be around people, and I didn’t want to explain everything but when I did want to talk, they listened. 🙂 That’s what I hope to do on behalf of “the church” because there are daughters of God who need that community and that love that doesn’t lump them in an awkward adult singles group or throw them in a room to watch 90’s videos. Jesus has to have something better for his daughters than shame and awkwardness, right? I think it’ll take a movement of women who made it through the tunnel to reach out to other women and reassure them with God’s hope of a future. No one is beyond hope, right? No matter how many times they’ve been failed or hurt, right? That’s my calling 🙂 that’s my role in the body of Christ. And to address the root cause, the often idolized version of ‘marriage’ in which women place their identity instead of the gospel.
    I also want to say that Jesus wouldn’t have fit in well into a church here. He would have been the wacko kindly asked to leave. He would have been tending to the poor and broken with mercy and without judgment, with a genuine sympathy and compassion of one who has experienced it firsthand, and yet imparting the hope and joy of one who knows the inheritance that lies ahead and the promises of God.
    That’s what I hope to do through this genuine ministry, and what you clearly did in this blog: minister to the hearts of women.
    Much love to you, dear!

    • Helena,
      Thank you much for the heartfelt encouragement and sharing your own journey. Thank you for reaching out to others now in ministry for Christ.

      Yes, it’s silly in some ways when someone who is divorced is categorically returned to a “singles” filing cabinet. It’s like we are treated as if the marriage never happened (“you’re single”) or that you are ruined for life. Divorced women are both unique in their needs (not “just” singles) but also want to be treated no different than the other women, even if they are, say, raising children alone.

      I’m thankful someday we will meet Jesus face to face and can see what He intended the church and ministry to the hurting to be like.

  3. “They mean the most because they stood with me when I had nothing to give.” So true. Thank you for this post a hundred times over..so glad to find your blog!