Haggai International Founder, Dr. John Edmund Haggai, went to be with the Lord in 2020. As we uphold his legacy, we continue to draw from the wisdom he left behind in nuggets like “Notes from My Diary,” a publication he used to send to those closest to him. You’ll find his reflections are timelier and more necessary than ever.
I have resolved to try to make a friend of everyone I meet, even if that friendship lasts only two minutes. The laws governing good friend making are the same whether you live with someone, work with them, or just exchange a quip or two while they ring up your groceries.
In his excellent book, “The Fine Art of Friendship,” Ted Engstrom gave 10 rules for friendship, which I’ve found especially helpful. I have summarized them as follows:
1. Demand Nothing. “We must decide to develop friendship in which we demand nothing in return.” Being demanding — of time and tolerance — is one of the main reasons why some people fail to make friends. But ironically, it is often by demanding nothing that we actually receive the most.
2. Be Interested. “It takes a conscious effort to nurture an authentic interest in others.” In other words, appreciation doesn’t come easy. But if you give up at the start it won’t come at all.
3. Be Patient. “Each of us is a one-of-a-kind creation.” Therefore, it will always take time — often a long time — to understand one another. The same could be said of a country you move into. It takes time to learn the language and customs and to drive on the left side of the road instead of the right. But learning brings familiarity, and familiarity brings enjoyment.
4. Listen. “Commit yourself to learning how to listen.” It’s a common mistake in communication to plan your own next witty remark when you should be listening to what the other person is saying. Don’t you want people to listen to you?
5. Be Around. “Simply be there to care, whether you know exactly what to do or not.” Often, as in bereavement, there is no “right” thing to do except being on the scene. Your presence is a source of comfort, so be available.
6. Don’t Act Superior. “Always treat others as equals.” Paul instructs the Christian “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Romans 12:3). The reverse is also true. Equality is basic to appreciation.
7. Praise. “Be generous with legitimate praise and encouragement.” No one likes a sourpuss. Conversely, we all respond with almost childlike pleasure to sincere praise. The moral doesn’t need spelling out, does it?
8. Put Friends First. “Make your friends Number One, preferring them above yourself.” If you give up an afternoon to help a friend decorate his apartment, you’re telling him he matters to you. You’re also likely to have a good time.
9. Seek God’s Friendship. “Learn to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s in God’s love for all mankind that we find the most powerful reason to love others. It’s in God’s love for us as individuals that we find the strength to love even when we don’t feel like it.
10. Be Positive. “Emphasize the strengths and virtues of others, not their sins and weaknesses.” Nobody’s perfect. That means that you can break a relationship down by finding faults or build it up by ignoring them. Which is more important to you? The relationship or the faults?
I would make only one addition to Ted Engstrom’s list, and that is etiquette. It may just be, for example, that the other guests at a dinner party raise an eyebrow or two when you dig into the spaghetti with your hands! Every social group has a few unspoken rules; come what may, you are expected to observe them. Failing to do so will not advance your quest for social integration.