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The distinguishing characteristics of a casual friendship are as follows:

1) It's based on common interests, activities, and concerns.
2) You have the freedom to ask specific questions, such as what opinions, ideas, wishes or goals the person has.

(When I say common interests, I'm not talking about common experiences. Common experiences are not a basis for a friendship or relationship. The basis for a friendship is the individual. You should just enjoy being with an individual for the sake of his interests, likes, and character.)

There aren't any social responsibilities with casual friends. In other words, you don't have to call or see what's going on with someone. However, you do have two basic responsibilities. First, you need to learn to identify and praise the other person's positive qualities.

Too often we major on the negative. That's why some people don't have friends. If you major on the negative, you'll chase people away. You have to find their positive traits and major on those things.

When people come to my husband, Bishop Keith Butler, for counseling, he doesn't just "jump on them" and tell them everything they're doing wrong. He listens and discerns what they're doing right. If he just told them negative, negative, negative, they wouldn't come back!

He'll never send you out of his office feeling bad or say, "You're a poor excuse for a Christian - get out of my office" (even though that may be true)! He'll tell you something, such as, "You need to do such-and-such. You're on the right track. We're praying for you; we're in your corner." He'll lift you up and encourage you.

You have to build people up, and you build them up by telling them what they've done right. If you can't do anything else, you can at least call those things that be not as though they were (Rom. 4:17)!

Your second responsibility as a casual friend is to design appropriate specific questions for children, youth, and adults. Sometimes we just want to deal with adults and forget about the youth and children. But you can't just ignore them. You have to do the same thing with them that you do for adults, because children are really just little adults. In fact, some children are more adult than the adults are!

Now the general information that you gather as an acquaintance will help you ask appropriate questions at the casual friendship stage. So at this stage, you want to discover what the person is interested in.

The mistake we make is that we ask people about the things we're interested in. That's how we make enemies. They might not know we're interested in a particular thing. When we ask them about something that interests us, they think we're asking a legitimate question and trying to get to know them. Then when they give us their honest opinion that they hate something we like, we get mad! So we need to get to know people and ask them about what they're interested in.

Most of us have been approaching the friendship from a totally selfish concept - everything is about "me." But that's the world's way of doing things. God's approach is totally different. Everything is about the other person. He's interested in them.

You have to show some interest in other people, just like you would if you were looking for a job. Suppose you went for a job interview and you didn't know anything about the company or what they did? You wouldn't be able to ask intelligent questions when they gave you the opportunity.

Hopefully, when you go looking for a job, you take the time to research the company so you can at least look as if you know what you're doing. You want to show your prospective employer that you're really interested in the position.

Well, you have to do the same thing with friendships. When you're working on a friendship, you need to "research" or find out what the other person is interested in. If you just did that, you'd save yourself a lot of trouble, because once you found out that someone wasn't interested in what you're interested in, you'd know, Okay, we can't take this relationship past this stage at all.

But what we've done is taken folks that were meant to stay as casual friends, and we've brought them into close friendship and fellowship. We've chosen people that we think should be our friends, but they aren't our friends and can't be.

Because of the way we're conditioned and the lies that TV and Hollywood have presented to us, we'll decide right off the bat, I like that person. I want him to be my friend. Then we'll start confiding in that person. But that's how you get in trouble.

You may be putting all your information out to someone who will use it against you; someone who is totally selfish; someone who doesn't care about you - he or she only cares about themselves. After you have two or three experiences like that, you'll clam up and won't allow yourself to open up to anyone anymore. And that's not what God intended.

You have to approach friendships God's way, but you have to have some wisdom. You need to be very aware of the people around you, because the same ones who were put in your path for you to help could end up hurting you because you took it too far too fast.

You can't just go headlong and offer people information that they're not interested in. Some people will flat tell you, "I didn't ask you that. I didn't want to know all that." It's too much information. You have to take it slow.

Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin (I call him Dad Hagin) would always tell us when I was a student at RHEMA Bible Training Center that it's better to be too slow than to be too fast. In other words, it's easier to catch up than it is to clean up! You can always catch up, but cleaning up is not so easy.

The main thing to remember is that the choice to move from a casual friendship to a close one is a decision that each individual has to make for himself or herself with God.

Source: Marriage And Family by Deborah L. Butler
Excerpt permission granted by Word Of Faith Publishing

Author Biography

Deborah Butler
Web site: Word of Faith International Christian Center
Pastor Deborah is a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel. Her encouraging, yet down-to-earth teaching imparts wisdom from the Word of God to all that hear her speak. One of Pastor Butler's many duties is serving as the Director of God's BeYOUties, the women's ministry at Word of Faith in Southfield, and Faith4Life in Toledo. Pastor Deborah is often called to travel to other ministries to teach and admonish women to walk in the wisdom of God and to experience peace in every area of their lives.

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