Friendships are extremely valuable in life, and it is helpful to recognize the 3 types of friendships we experience. When we understand the old adage, 3 types of friendships–reason, season and lifetime–it helps explain why we meet friends, how we keep friends but also why we lose friends through change or conflict.
The Purpose of Friendship
Good friends enhance our sense of happiness, help us grow and support us. I am most content when surrounded by those I call friend.
In our lifetime we meet many people for many different purposes, and I often wonder if an acquaintance will move into the friendship category. There are various reasons why we experience levels of friendship such as shared experiences, chemistry, and availability.
Once a special connection is formed and we begin to call each other friend, it is hard to know at that moment, how the friendship will unfold.
Most of us enter into friendships with the hope that they will continue indefinitely. We don’t meet people and start dividing them into different levels of friendships.
The 3 types of friendships just happen as natural rhythms of relationships and life.
I was part of a Mothers of Preschoolers group when my children were young, and spent several years with a group of wonderful moms and their children. That season and those friendships provided me and my children with many special memories. I am still friends with several of the moms I met in that group, but with others as our children grew, I lost touch.
The 3 types of friendships explain why moving on and losing touch is inevitable and how we can adjust and adapt to this reality with the people we call friend that are entrusted with our time and love.
What are the 3 Types of Friendships
Once I learned about the 3 types of friendships, they began to help me navigate relationships. My understanding of each type of friendship has expanded over time and through real life application.
Some People Come into Our Lives for a Reason
Many people we meet are connected to us for a reason. A lot of our friends start at this level of friendship then are cultivated and grow. These are the people we work or exercise with, our neighbors, small group at church or people we communicate with on social media.
I met one of my ’reason’ friends at my first post-college job 30 years ago. We both had graduated from college and were excited about our positions at a local television station. When I was hired and assigned a cubicle, the only entrance was accessed by passing through her office.
We were forced together, which is not the best way to start a friendship, and Laurie graciously tolerated my popping by her desk several times a day for months. We slowly formed a connection and eventually she became a good, then a great friend.
We experienced many highs (weddings and births) and lows (moves and loss), and she is what I now consider a lifetime friend.
The people who come into our lives for a reason don’t always turn into lifetime friends. Many times, we meet people for a reason and then move on; we finish the assignment and that is the end of the friendship.
Other times we meet people for a reason, form a connection but the opportunity to deepen and grow the friendship is not there.
The good news is there will always be opportunities and reasons to meet people; some will be utilitarian in nature but others may develop into greater connections if the timing is right.
Jesus started His ministry and friendship with his disciples for a reason, to spread His message of love and to make them “fishers of men”:
“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” Matthew 4:18-20 NKJV
How exciting to be part of a friend group with such a grand mission!
I don’t know for sure, but the disciples were probably anticipating walking beside Jesus for the rest of their lives—I think I would have been.
We enter into most of our relationships with this hope. That is why it can be difficult to move on when we realize some people come into our lives and it will only last a season.
These friends of Jesus did become his dearest friends and eventually most died in the continuation of the ‘reason’ they were called by Him.
Some People Come into Our Lives for a Season
The people who come into our lives for a season is my least favorite level of friendship. Friends forever would work better for me, but that is not how it always works out. I view these friends as the ones we are connected to for a period of time before the relationship is lost or comes to an end.
I have experienced many friendships for a season and recognize it is why some relationships exist—for a certain purpose.
Either shifting values, priorities, circumstances or conflict can cause friends to be seasonal. The change in circumstances, such as my Mothers of Preschoolers friends, is understandable and easier to get over but the ones that are lost for other more personal and painful reasons are difficult.
Jesus’ disciples who had walked, worked and grew close beside him were devastated of the news that He would be leaving them.
“Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.” Matthew 17:22-23 NKJV
The disciples’ loss of Jesus in the flesh brought them deep sadness.
Have you been exceedingly sorrowful by the loss of a friend? I have.
It is comforting to know that sorrow and grief are normal and expected when some people come into our lives for a season. As in the case of Jesus having to depart, there are many situations that we cannot change that lead to a friendship lasting for only a season.
How we handle the departing and what follows can be instrumental in our growth and ability to be a better friend for others.
The good news is—the sorrow of losing a friend can always be remedied with the help of those friendships that last.
Friends for a Lifetime
Friends for a lifetime are the friends that hang on to us no matter what storm or disruption comes along. We usually have associates and acquaintances we can know for years, but deep friends for a lifetime are those that see us, know us, get us, and still love us. I have some wonderful lifetime friends and am thankful every day.
Lifetime friendships take work and require two individuals striving for personal growth, respect for each other’s boundaries and realistic expectations.
These friendships offer forgiveness, unconditional love, support and space. They do not own or control us.
We experience these types of mutually beneficial, virtuous friendships when God is placed first in our lives, because we do not cling to someone with the expectation that they will fulfill or complete us.
“A true friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17 NLT
Although Jesus left His disciples in the flesh, He became a friend for a lifetime to them and us by His resurrection and imparting of the Holy Spirit.
“I have told you this while I am still with you. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you.” John 14:26 NLT
“The Helper will come—the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God and who comes from the Father. I will send him to you from the Father, and he will speak about me.” John 15:26 GNT
Our ability to hold on to and be long-lasting friends, even through conflict and pain, is fostered when our deepest need for love and friendship is met through Christ and the comfort the Holy Spirit brings.
All 3 Types of Friendships Begin with Love
My hope in friendship circles, regardless of the type, is to be an image bearer and exude the love that God continually bestows upon me, because all 3 types of friendships begin with love.
I hope to be lovely even when a relationship has been cut short by conflict; even when I feel wronged, and even when I miss the person and don’t understand what happened.
The only way I can be a Godly friend is to place my expectations vertically toward Christ instead of horizontally toward others.
I love the joy that friendship adds to my life and my hope is to learn to continue to love more deeply and forgive more extravagantly, so I can be an honoring, virtuous friend.
Jesus is our Best Friend
Jesus is our truest, closest friend—a soul friend. He is always available and provides a wholeness in our spirit that does not compare to any earthly friendship.
When we wonder, what is friendship? He provides the perfect model of what a loving, virtuous friend looks like. From the place of experiencing His extreme love and contentment, we can reach out and unconditionally love others where our joy is made complete.
As Jesus was preparing to be led to the cross, where He would die, he addressed his disciples,
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15:13 MSG
Jesus lost His life for us, his friends. His death was atonement for our sin, but also, a personal, relational act of friendship. He expressed deep, sacrificial love for all people in His life and death and set the example for us to follow.
Regardless of which of the 3 types of friendships I am part of, the confidence of His enduring love helps me be a better friend.
How about You? How has learning the 3 types of friendships helped? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Mary Rooney Armand loves to write about inspiring faith based stories. She focuses on helping others grow in their intimacy with Christ and thrive in their personal relationships. Mary lives in New Orleans with her husband Cory and four children. Besides writing, she teaches Bible Studies and leads small groups. In 2020 she developed ButterflyLiving and a Bible Study titled “Identity” which is available on Amazon. To learn more visit maryarmand.com.