Every once in a while a situation arises that appears to be out of line with what I thought I knew. At these times I always go hunting for definitions … often of the most common words… and begin a quest for truth.
The most recent is “friendship”. Two times directly referenced (once about temper and once about haphazard alliance) and each was a warning. So I looked up “friend”. Seven words taught me about who a friend should be and should not be. (Strong’s numbers – 157,441, 3045, 3588, 4828, 4962, 7453)
As I watch my grandson peacefully taking his nap, I am reminded that friendships are so very important. I want wonderful, lifetime friends for him.
Why do parents and grandparents want to influence who children have as friends? Isn’t encouraging them to be a friend, to make any friend or lots of friends enough?
Who a child’s friends are will impact that child for a lifetime. Those relationships will augment or destroy our loved ones. I’d say that’s pretty powerful motivation to keep a close watch and maybe take a turn at the friend-ship steering wheel.
Friends are more than companions they become influential in pivotal moments. Friends are advisors. Friends are supportive in times of crisis. Friends show genuine concern and caring. Friends shepherd each other. Those are good friends.
Others we count as friends gossip, betray, lead astray, ignore, divide, and desert us. Bad friends. Agreed?
Aside from the obvious that friends are people with whom we spend time and share common experiences, friends can be books (authors or characters) or celebrity athletes (that’s scary), or experts in a particular field of interest – music, science, entertainment — or pets, or cartoon super heroes. Friends are sometimes invented by our children. To the glory of God they can even learn to make friends of family members.
Alliances. Everyone needs them. Gamers need them. Politicians need them. The rich, and the poor need them. The successful and the outcast need them.
I guess the common thing there is strategy. Who will help you?
Although friendships are not exactly the same as alliances the same concept is true when determining who to include and who to avoid. Sorting true friend from foe includes knowledge of trust and acquaintance levels, appropriate boundaries, making the most of each one’s strengths, and bolstering each area of weakness.
These things we should teach our children early on. Early because they are exposed to friend concepts early and need us to guide them. “Sink or swim” teaching carries a high price in this training category and the risk far outweighs the gain.
Who will advise you? On whom could you depend in a crisis? Who will speak well of you? Whose company do you enjoy? Whose ways do you want to emulate and whose ways would cause you harm?
God has something to say about that so that neither child nor adult has to navigate friendships alone.
‘Friend’ is mentioned 120 times in the amplified version of Scripture. Who is a friend according to the LORD? Let’s just look at what God shares with us in the Proverbs.
A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity.
Teaching Point: Bid farewell to fair-weather friends. Appreciate and invest in those who stay with you through good times and bad.
The poor is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich has many friends.
All the brothers of a poor man detest him—how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone.
Teaching Point: If money is the motivator for the friendship, be on your guard. The friendship will not last.
A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.
Teaching Point: Close friends can be separated by gossip and perversity. Stay away from both. Do not allow offenses to rule relationships.
The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Teaching Point: Relax. There is less stress and better friendship when you invest your time and effort in a few key people. Friendship is a time commitment. Know your limits.
Make no friendships with a man given to anger, and with a wrathful man do not associate,
Teaching Point: Drama is drama, not friendship. Stay away in order to protect your heart.
Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend [to show rage or worthy purpose].
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are lavish and deceitful.
Teaching Point: Honesty, though painful at times is beneficial. Welcome honesty in friendships no matter how intense or difficult when presented.
He who loves purity and the pure in heart and who is gracious in speech—because of the grace of his lips will he have the king for his friend.
Teaching Point: What you say and how you say it are extremely important.
Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart.
Say to skillful and godly Wisdom, You are my sister, and regard understanding or insight as your intimate friend—
Teaching Point: Information exchange builds friendship. Make certain your advice is honest, knowledgeable and heartfelt.
Your own friend and your father’s friend, forsake them not; neither go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near [in spirit] than a brother who is far off [in heart].
Teaching Point: When investing in new friends, pay attention to those who’ve invested in you AND your family.
Well, that’s a lot to map out. How would these teaching points realign your relation-ships? … or those of your loved ones?