A “best” friend should inspire and challenge you.

Most successful people surround themselves with a band of brothers and sisters who push them to reach shared goals: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27: 17).

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“Strong social relationships support mental health, and that ties into better immune function, reduced stress, and less cardiovascular activation,” said Debra Umberson, a sociologist at the University of Texas, Austin, to Time magazine in 2015.

Clearly human friendships are healthy and necessary — but are they enough?

I discovered with one of my good friends while I was growing up, a friend I’ll call Brian, that friendship with Jesus Christ is a totally different kind of friendship — offering multiple and meaningful advantages.

I asked my friend to elaborate on what a friendship with Christ adds to a mere human friendship.

“Friendship with Christ can seem to be an odd thing,” he told me. “How can one be friends with Christ? One way to approach the question is to examine human friendships. One of my good friends shared with me a way to determine if someone was a friend — or merely an acquaintance. He said to pay attention to the conversation when the person calls. A friend will call simply to catch up; acquaintances call because they want something. They may catch up for 20 or 30 minutes or longer, but in the end, they get around to the real purpose of the call — they need something from you.”

My friend Brian added, “True friendships are not like that. They are rare for many reasons. One is because our interests are so varied. Finding someone who shares most or all of our interests is difficult to do. But perhaps the main reason is we fear removing our masks and sharing our innermost thoughts with one another.”

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“I have one friend in this world with whom I am able to share all aspects of my life — faith, spousal relationship, child-rearing challenges, work successes and failures, musical preferences, sports interests, book favorites, food and wine favorites, etc.,” he went on. “And I am very thankful for it.”

He went on: “Friendship with Christ is like that, but more. He is not someone we just go to when we need something. Then He would just be an acquaintance. He is someone we can share any and every thing with, all without fear of being laughed at or disparaged or misunderstood.”

“Most importantly, friendship with Christ makes us more like Him. We all imitate those around us. That is simply how we were made. Spending time with Christ — reading the Gospel, visiting Him in the Eucharist physically or spiritually, looking for and seeing Him in others — makes us more like Him, and that makes us happy.”

“Being made in the image and likeness of God means, among many things, that we are made for communion with others, that we are not meant to be alone. Human friendships bring us great joy. Because they are human, however, they will break at some time. And then we have to decide if expending the effort to repair the break is worth it. But Christ will never break His friendship with us. He will never fail us, will never let us down. We may break that friendship and think it cannot be repaired. But He can (and did) fix anything. He will be always knocking at the door of our heart — wanting us to open it so He can come and be with us, and we can start anew.”

Is Christ your “best friend”?

Do you make time for Him in your daily schedule?

We all have access to this tremendous gift, but Jesus needs to see that you “want” it.

Only Christ can meet your deepest and innermost needs, and this is the only friendship, if it is sincere and genuine, that is guaranteed to continue into eternity.

Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest who has advised the Lumen Institute, an association of business and cultural leaders, in New York City.