During the first few years I spent in Romania, I kept a detailed journal. In recent months, I’ve been revisiting those notebooks, interested to see what I was doing ten, eleven, or twelve years ago on the same day.

Last week, I came across an interesting phrase. A pastor from the U.S. was visiting my university campus. We spent some time talking about ministry and the challenges of mission work. “We talked at lunch for quite awhile. It was so good to see him again. He is an inspiration…” and then came this line, “…and I always feel a bit revived after I’m with him.”

This got me thinking about friendship, and the strengthening effect of spending time with people who are life-giving. I always feel a bit revived…

This kind of feeling can only come from the person who is strong enough to give life without becoming the weaker for it. It’s the person who draws strength from strengthening others.

Sometimes, it seems like the critical person is the one who is powerful. Nagging, criticizing, constantly demonstrating their superiority… these types also exert a certain amount of control over people. But I doubt people walk away feeling “revived.” Rather, they probably feel drained. It’s life-taking not life-giving when you get an earful of everything that’s wrong with something or someone else.

I’m convinced that the stronger person, however, is the one who draws life from giving it, who is revived by reviving others, who is strengthened by strengthening others. The critical friend feels stronger by taking life from someone else. But the life-giving friend knows that true strength is demonstrated by giving life to others.

There are certainly times when friendship requires confrontation, when brotherly love requires constructive criticism. But the life-giving friend manages to offer criticism in a way that strengthens and builds up another, making sure the conversation is motivated by love and undergirded by joy.

What kind of person are you? Don’t analyze yourself; ask your friends and family members, the people who know you best.

Are you the kind of person others would talk about this way: “I always feel a bit revived after I’m with him or her.”

I don’t think I’m there yet. But one day, I hope to be.