God created us for fellowship, first with Him and then with others. Friendship is a gift from God, and toward the end of His ministry, Jesus even referred to His disciples as His friends. I’ve been blessed by several dear friendships over my life, but I’ve also experienced the dismay from toxic relationships. What a difference a grace-filled friend can make in our life. Are your friends grace-based or toxic? Read more as Mary DeMuth shares about 10 traits of grace-based friends and how you can use these traits to analyze the kindness level of your current friendships.
10 Traits of Grace-Based Friends
by Mary DeMuth
I sat up in bed, thinking over the breadth of my friendships. Because I’ve moved around a lot, I’ve had a few friends in different locations. Some of those friendships have remained, and as it often goes in this mobile life, some of those friendships have died away. I’ve seen just how important a grace-oriented friend can be.
In retrospect, I’ve come to see that some of those friendships were not based on grace. A small minority were toxic, where I realized later I was either trying too hard and not measuring up, or I constantly felt less than. I don’t mean to condemn those friends, because, if I’m honest, I have to realistically view myself. Sometimes I wasn’t a good friend. Sometimes I was the toxic one.
What is grace in friendship?
As I get older, I want to invest in the kinds of friendships that build me up, where friends have permission to help me see myself (and my faults), but do so in an encouraging, life-giving way. I simply don’t have space right now for gracelessness.
In light of this, here are ten traits of grace-based friends. Maybe this will become a benchmark for you, a way to analyze the kindness of your current friendships. Maybe God is asking you to bravely move away from a toxic friend, or maybe God is asking you to give your friends more grace. Either way, I pray this list blesses you.
10 Traits of grace-based friends
1. They give you space.
Good friends full of grace understand that sometimes you need to be alone, to find yourself, to seek God. They don’t see this as an affront or rejection. Instead, they step back and pray with you from afar, asking God to reveal Himself to you. They don’t chastise you for needing alone time.
2. They have your back.
Grace-filled friends will defend you to others. They jump in when you need help, but without shaming or shunning or making you feel small. They don’t despise your needs, nor do they expose your deep vulnerabilities to others. They speak well of you in public.
3. They believe the best.
Love, as we know from 1 Corinthians 13, believes all things. Love assumes positive intent. A grace-based friend doesn’t jump to catastrophic conclusions. They ask questions, sure, but they choose to believe your intent is positive.
4. A grace-filled friend lets you be you.
They are not intimidated by you and your way of doing things. They are not jealous of your space in the world. They rejoice in how creative or weird or quirky you are. They don’t try to force you into a friendship mold, but they let your friendship be wholly unique. (And think about this: when two friends are together, they create an entirely new, creative entity!). A grace-based friend applauds when you succeed–without snippy comments or outright jealousy.
5. They aren’t afraid to lovingly confront.
Just because a friend is grace-based doesn’t mean they never confront. A good friend wants you to be your best. She wants you to succeed in life and love. If you’re walking down a destructive path, she loves you enough to bring gentle correction, not in an “I told you so” manner, but with deep humility, first looking at her own waywardness. In this way, she is a companion traveling along a road with you. When you deviate from the path, she reaches out and grabs your hand to steady you back on the road.
6. They refuse to gossip about you.
These friends don’t gossip about other friends in your presence, which gives you deep reassurance that they don’t gossip about you behind your back.
7. A gracious friend doesn’t demand allegiance.
A grace-based friend understands that you have certain allegiances–first to Jesus, then to your family. Although she cherishes her friendship with you, she doesn’t demand time, gifts, or attention. She accepts what happens in the friendship, and often seeks to bless the other.
8. A good friend welcomes growth.
Some friendships only exist in a vacuum of zero growth. When one friend moves on or grows and the other can’t handle it, the friendship crumbles. Longstanding, grace-based friendships weather change and they welcome personal growth.
9. They are not your clone.
Friends are different. They can’t be twins. They’re amazing because two different people have chosen to be friends. This diversity brings great joy to a grace-based friend. A liberal and a conservative can be friends. A chef and a junk food junkie can be friends. An extrovert and an introvert can be friends. In fact, it makes for more excitement when you’re different.
10. They don’t shame.
When I think back to one of my friendships that ended, the one word that shuffles through my head is shame. Like when I was around this friend, I felt small, not enough, broken, and messy. While I absolutely recognize that I am all of these things, there’s something painful about being in a relationship that constantly reminds you of your faults. If you feel you’ll never measure up, if you leave an interaction with a burning face and that awful feeling in your gut, if you keep trying to make the other person approve of or like you (to no avail), it may be time to say goodbye. A healthy friendship cannot exist in an atmosphere of shame.
What about you? Who is your grace-based friend? And when have you had to say goodbye to a shaming friend?
About Mary DeMuth
Mary DeMuth is a writer, speaker, podcaster and amateur artist who loves to help people live restoried lives. Author of more than 40 books, including: The Seven Deadly Friendships: How to Heal When Painful Relationships Eat Away at Your Joy. She is the wife of Patrick and the mom of three adult children. She wrote The Seven Deadly Friendships because she believes there has to be a better way to deal with difficult relationships, a way that honors Jesus yet protects our souls from harm.
Find out if you are currently in one of the 7 toxic friendships by taking this quiz: The Deadly Friendship Quiz
Connect with Mary DeMuth: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / PrayEveryDay Podcast
About the book, The Seven Deadly Friendships: How to Heal When Painful Relationships Eat Away at Your Joy
There’s something wrong with your friendship, but you can’t figure out why. Is everything in your head? Unfortunately, toxic friendships happen to everyone, but we seldom identify the underlying issues while we battle confusion or the friendship breaks up. Maybe you’re left bewildered in the friendship’s wake, paralyzed to move forward. After wading through several difficult friendships, Mary DeMuth reveals the seven different types of toxic relationships and empowers you to identify the messiest relationships causing you the greatest anguish. Discover a pathway toward healing through a powerful seven-step process.
I was so blessed by Mary’s blog. I have had all of these relationships and could so identify with all the traits. In walking away from several friendships because they were not grace based I was sad but knew I had to leave but I continued to pray for that former friend. Also I have several wonderful friendships that are so identified as grace based and I am so thankful that now I know why they are such a wonderful blessing in my life. Thanks Mary for your insights. Looking forward to reading your book.
What a great comment, Karen! And I’m so glad you have some great grace-based friends!
My grace-based friend, Anita, is a wonderful role model for me. She leads me back when I veer in the worldly direction with gentleness, kindness and love. God has blessed me without measure with this woman’s friendship!
YAY for Anita!
My BFF always has my back. We live in separate states and no matter how long it’s been since we talked, it seems like just yesterday…we just pick up where we left off from the last time! There’s never any judgement or shame between us no matter what. We’ve been friends for 30+ years and been living away from each other for more than half of that time. But we are as close as we’ve always been!
I love those amazing long term friendships! 🙂
That they refuse to gossip about you or others!
Yes, that’s one I’m finally, finally learning!
Great description of a good friend. I’m your neighbor over on #MommyMomments today.
I’m glad you liked the post, Ordinary Mom. 🙂
I love that I have a handfill of grace-filled relationships. I am thankful that they exhibit #5, “They lovingly confront you.” I am glad they exhibit all the other attributes that allow them to be upfront and honest with me in a loving manner. It allows me to trust them, and they will always speak the truth. They have helped me in difficult situations and have been able to show me where I could do better.
I’m so grateful to read that, Ashley! Those kind of friends are GEMS!
As I read the 10 traits of a grace based friendship, I realized why some of my friendships imploded in my past. I have severed several friendships due to gossip, unhealthy confrontation and competitiveness. It is sobering that I spent so much time, energy and effort in trying to be a “good” friend despite the high maintenance cost to me. Thank you exposing my tendency to remain in a friendship that is toxic and can cause damage to my psyche and my estimation of my worth to others. I find I am more cautious about revealing myself to others and thus have few close friends. My closest friend is my sister who lives 2000 miles away. We text, e-mail and call one another on an almost daily basis. I would treasure a person who could be close to me and be a grace based friend.
I love that your sister is your closest friend, and I’m sorry for your past friendship losses. I have also had those experiences.
These friends demonstrate unconditional love for one another by sharing what Christ is teaching them, praying for and with one another, and encouraging them to grow in maturity in Christ. They weep with one another, listen to one another, laugh with one another. They see each one’s worth in Christ and affirm it.
I love that!!!
This is such a needed book, thank you for writing it. A trait I love in my grace based friendships is not being judged for present or past.
I love this list! I just told Mary that I NEED this book!!!!!
I have some amazing friends who are grace-based! But, the ones that aren’t tend to be the super self-involved type and the ones who never initiate time together. It is always me doing the pursuing.
I am actually super okay with cutting out people who are draining and soul sucking. It gets easier as I get older.
Oh yes, those who don’t initiate. I call them Unreliable Uma in the book!
How do you cut ties with those draining and soul sucking types of people? I’m struggling with doing that as I type this.
I love how my friends challenge me.thank you for giving us a chance to win
That shows you’re a person of growth! Love this!
I have a long distance friend who is a prayer warrior. I have been going through one of the worst trials of my life, partly because I saw what I wanted to see (in a toxic friend) instead of the truth. My dear prayer warrior friend has not shamed me, even though what I am going through is partly my fault.
Oh how we all need the prayer warrior friend!
It feels like there’s never been an absence every time I get to see my bestie. laurensparks.net
That’s a great indication of a terrific friendship!
Dr Michelle – thank you for sharing. Mary, what a great article! This is also a guideline for me to be a better friend. I love what you say “Love assumes positive intent”.
What a timely topic–deadly friendships and grace-filled friendships. I have been touched by both types of friends, but one friend I love can share truth about me that is honest and should sting, but it is shared in such a way that I am encouraged and can take appropriate measures.
Thank you so much for sharing this article. My bestie and I always pick up where we left off at. We respect and love each other unconditionally and except one another for who we are, flaws and all.
This article is so timely for me and a convicting God-send! Unfortunately, I currently have zero grace based friends and am in the process of removing myself from a “Faker Fiona” friendship, as I just discovered through the quiz. Ending the friendship is something I’ve been avoiding, but after reading this blog post and Mary’s Proverbs 31 daily devotion this morning, I know moving forward without this toxic person in my life is the healthy thing to do. I trust that God will provide a grace based friend(s) in the future and also allow me to be a grace based friend. Thank you Mary, for writing this book and sharing your wisdom on friendships such as these.
My BFF since we were 14, more than 40 years ago now, has always let me be me, yet always encouraged me to be even better,and lavishes love on me. I wish I had been wiser in choosing husbands, though. My two mist destructive relationships….more aware now, but hoping to heal enough to hope again…I would LOVE a copy of your new book, Mary!
My favorite trait if a true friend is that they refuse to gossip about others. It means a lot to me because it takes away any temptation I may have to join in gossip since it doesn’t take place at all.
I think this book may be something that our small group would benefit from.
I love this article so much, and am so happy that I have a friend who meets all 10 qualifications. Friends like this are few and far between, and I am grateful that God saw fit to put someone like this in my life. My favorite quality is 4–I am socially awkward, constantly overthinking, and can rarely put into words (cohesively) what is in my brain; yet she extends grace, loves me anyway, and is not afraid to confront things that are potentially damaging to my relationship with God.
Thanks for sharing these great insights into what a grace-filled friendship looks like!
I have one friend who tended to make me feel like I was not good enough no matter how much of myself I poured into the relationship and into helping her with what she needed/wanted. (Granted, I was/am a somewhat needy person, but now I am a *wiser*, needy person.) Since she has moved to another state, we are better friends further apart. I now have a friend who both likes and loves me just the way I am, appreciates me whether I help her or not, is a great listener, and imparts great wisdom in a gentle way.
Thank you for your email/post. You have made so clear the issues of my childhood and the few significant friendships I’ve allowed myself to have. It’s taken many years to disconnect. Right now God has brought into my life a friendship where God is the focus. We are honest with each other and with God. I really look forward to reading and sharing your book. Bless you for writing it.
I have had many friendships end, mostly because I grew up in a military family. Of all the friends, none of them kept in touch. I would write (pre-email era) and sometimes they would respond…once or twice. After that, it was a one-way street. I would make new friends, but over time, I learned to keep a certain distance, to keep the hurt and disappointment to a minimum. After college, I settled in one place for the first time in my life. Long-term friendships came slowly, as I had no experience in sustaining relationships. I started to see a pattern where I would give and others would take, but rarely would the reverse happen…and when it did, it did not feel equal. Learning to identify toxic relationships has taken a long time and sometimes I think, I may expect more that I should. The book,”The Seven Deadly Friendships…” would be a valuable tool to help this “old dog” learn something new, and maybe bring some joy into the last years of this earthly journey.
I have been so fortunate to always have had good friends in my life. My best friend knows how much I value her friendship and she always makes time for me when I am not traveling. She has many friends, but makes me always feel like I’m special when we have lunch together. I have only a couple of friends and she is my closest friend in that we always share our prayer requests with each other. We have also co-facilitated a women’s bible study for a few years together, and we have always gotten along in every situation. I am very happy to have her and I need to let her know more often how much I value her friendship and appreciate her!
I think every single woman on the planet needs to read Mary’s book The Seven Deadly Friendships. I’ve heard some horrible “frenemy” stories!
Thanks Michelle for having Mary’s blog/story here today!
Michelle, I absolutely love your posts! My closest girlfriend qualifies with each thing you listed here. I would also add, “Giving your friend the benefit of the doubt” always assuming the positive rather than the possible negative in their life.
Sharing this great post on Twitter and Pinterest!
Michelle, did you choose a winner?
It will be announced here in the comments shortly. 🙂
I just got my copy in the mail and can’t wait until I can dive in! Although I’ve come so far in recognizing the red flags, I still tend to often draw unhealthy people to me. I know so many of us have been hurt in friendships. This is definitely a book many many women need!
Blessings and smiles,
Yes, Lori, I agree that it is a book many women need. I know you’ll enjoy it.
Thank you for sharing Mary for sharing this blessed message. So wonderfully spoken. I have one faith based friend in Christ whose my bestie.
Having godly, grace-based friendships can be such a blessing and so important to our spiritual growth.