A friend has this on her voicemail; “I’m not available right now, but thanks for your call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes.”

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of friendship as a spark plug for laughter. A recent study found that people rarely laugh alone, but are six times as likely to laugh in the presence of another person, and thirty times more likely to laugh when in a group. Like a yawn, laughter is contagious. You can get a chuckle from jokes and video clips on the Internet, but not the powerful rib-tickling, knee-slapping, fall-over laughter you get when it bounces off of others.

I heard a rather sad story the other day. Two guys were sentenced to solitary confinement for 20 years. Imagine. They were only allowed to bring with them one item each. The first said; “I’ll take my wife.” Pretty good thinking. The second decided on 2,000 cartons of cigarettes. What? Ya.

After 20 years, the first guy stepped into freedom with his wife and 5 kids. “We’re a close family,” he smiled, “It’s been fantastic!” The second guy came out looking bewildered and patting his pockets. “Hey,” he said, “does anyone have a light?”

So many things go up in smoke, but relationships that last bring us a lifetime of joy.

Here are some principles for building fantastic friendships straight out of the Bible. When my father gave me advice on public speaking, he said; “Son, be prepared, be brief, be seated.” So, I’ll follow that format on these friendship principles and we’ll see what happens.

1. Be Choosy.

Your friendships could determine your success in life. Proverbs 22:24-25 wisely advises us to “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 agrees; “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” Be choosy.

2. Be Blind.

Proverbs 17:9 says; “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Sometimes we must overlook the faults of others. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a perfect friend, so I shouldn’t go looking for one. Be blind.

3. Be Quiet.

We’ve been given two ears and one mouth so we can listen at least twice as much as we talk. James 1:19 says; “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to become angry.” An old African Proverb says; “Two great talkers won’t walk far together.” How true. The older I get the more I find myself listening to people who don’t talk so much. They have more to say. Proverbs 12:15 tells us; “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Be quiet.

4. Be There.

Want to find out who your real friends are? Get sick or go bankrupt. When my wife was battling a prolonged illness, her friend Julie showed up once a week and kidnapped our kids. We couldn’t have been more grateful, believe me. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times.” When possible, be there when a friend needs you. If you can’t be there, send a note, make a phone call, send chocolate. We won’t be perfect or have all the answers. But we can be there when friends really needed us.

Best of all, Psalm 25:14 promises us the friendship of God. It says; “The Lord is a friend to those who fear Him.” Friendship is one of the greatest joys of life. Remember that a laugh is best shared, and it’s almost impossible to hold a grudge against one who makes you laugh. So, find out who’s gonna cry at your funeral—and hang out with them.