“A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same," wrote American author Elbert Hubbard. He's right, because a true friend allows you to be yourself while encouraging you to be better. True friendship is a worthy gift to give another and receive in return. It makes life more pleasant and enjoyable. You can identify true friendship by looking for important characteristics.

The Commonalities You Share

True friends generally share common interests, history and values, according to physician Alex Lickerman, in “What Makes A True Friend” for “Psychology Today.” It takes time to build a true friendship, and during that time you do things together, learn about one another, share confidences and learn to trust one another. You might learn so much about one another you can finish each other’s sentences and know what that person is thinking just by looking at her face. Thinking back on your history, you will recall joyful and sad times you walked through together.

Support Given and Received

A friend supports and encourages you, writes Lickerman. Licensed psychologist Robin Smith agrees, and she tells Oprah.com that a true friend brings out the best in you. When you cry, a true friend may cry with you, offer you a shoulder to cry on, hand you a tissue and find a way to make you smile. When your greatest trials come along, a true friend reminds you that you can do it and stands shoulder-to-shoulder helping you get through. During your greatest victories you see delight and joy on the face of a true friend, without envy or downplaying your accomplishments.

Safety and Growth

A true friend provides a safe harbor to vent when you need it and then tells you to "suck it up" after you’ve had a chance to get it out. A true friend will support your principles and never ask you to compromise them, asserts Lickerman. The acceptance and understanding you get from a true friend helps you appreciate your best qualities and encourages you to grow. You adapt to the changes in each other’s lives, suggests the “Signs of a True Friendship” handout from the Euclid City Schools. When you mess up, a true friend accepts and loves you -- and forgives you gracefully when you apologize.

Being a True Friend

If you want true friends, you have to be a true friend. Be a good listener and balance your relationship with equal amounts of give and take so neither of you feels taken advantage of. Include others in your life and give them the opportunity to demonstrate loyalty, support, respect and trust. You can never have too many true friends.