When I was a freshman in college, working full-time and teaching an early morning exercise class, a good friend at work noticed I was overstretched (possibly when she saw me napping on the break room floor!). During finals week she packed me a sack lunch every day and handed it to me when I walked into the library. Amazing. This friend had always been good at listening and talking, making me laugh and sharing her wise insights. But in this moment she also saw a need and nurtured me. Her simple act taught me a lot about what real friendship is.
After I got married, I started to think spending time with friends was irresponsible, maybe even a waste of time. It sounds harsh. Don't get me wrong. I love friends! I'm crazy about them! I have the best friends in the world!
But with marriage and family as top priorities, followed by work and career, I didn't think I had much time left to spend developing close friendships. We often went out with other couples on the weekend. And I let people know I was there for them if they needed me. But I didn't go out of my way to invite people over, aside from what we did as a couple. I rarely made time to take a friend to lunch or even chat on the phone.
I used to think I was doing it right. Now I've realized it was a personal failing.
Years ago, when I hit a personal crisis and my family was hundreds of miles away, I really needed someone to turn to.
At that crisis point I had a relatively new friend who began to email me, then to walk with me, talk with me and laugh with me. Over time I learned she could also listen to my fears, keep confidences safe, lend support, pray for me, give solid advice and cheer me on. I could not have made it through that period without her.
In retrospect I see that God has consistently placed her and other friends in my life at just the right time to fill a specific need.
I have learned there are 5 kinds of friends every woman should have.
1. A pinch hitter
That person you KNOW you can depend on, who will be there for you—come rain or shine—and lend a hand whenever you're down and out, preferably without you even having to ask. Someone who offers, then shows up.
This is the friend who will carry your secret to the grave, who you can trust with very personal details—your deepest feelings and your biggest failings—because you know she won't be smearing it in the headlines or trailing it down the grapevine. You should also absolutely do the same for her!
3. A cheerleader
This could be a workout buddy or any encourager or motivator in your life. This is the one who believes in you and pushes you to be your best self. She perceives strengths and gifts you might not even be aware of and points them out. I have a friend who told me years ago I was destined to become a writer. I hadn't seen that path for myself, but her words stayed in my head and are becoming a reality.
4. A comedian
This is the friend who never fails to make you laugh. Sometimes what she says borders on the inappropriate, but she can say it in a way that lightens up the mood, and often reveals a deeply felt, underlying truth. Each of us also needs a friend who delivers a resounding belly laugh and appreciates our own sense of humor.
5. A sage
The one you can always turn to for great advice and know she'll give you wisdom that is beyond this world and truly inspired. These friends are often "old souls" with a deep wisdom that belies their age.
The best of friends can fill multiple roles–perhaps even all of them. You may also have multiple friends who fill just one role, or you could have one friend for each. The fact remains: we need them all.
Now, the real question is:What kind of a friend are YOU? Which of these roles do you fill for the various friends in your life? Has God placed you in someone's life right now to meet a specific need?
Chances are, there is a woman out there right now who needs a sage, a comedian, a cheerleader, a pinch hitter, a confidante … a FRIEND. She needs YOU. Will you be there for her?
Jana Winters Parkin is an artist, writer, and adjunct faculty at UVU. She co-hosts a popular podcast for women: "The Living Room" (bit.ly/TLRSHowiTunes) and spends every day possible exploring mountain trails. Contact her at