When asked to list the qualities of a true friend we often use words like “loyal,” “dedicated,” “sacrificial,” and “warm.” How many “real” friends do we actually have? If we were struggling with an addiction, could we be open and honest with this person about our problem? If we made a mistake and said some hurtful words, would we accept criticism from this person? Can we really call on him or her day or night twenty-four hours a day and know without a doubt that he or she would do everything in their power to help us? Most of us only have one or maybe two “true close friends.”
While I am not even close to the perfect friend, I have had many opportunities over the years to make friends. I have lived in more than one place, attended more than one college, and been a member of more than one church. In each transition I learn more about friendship. This is my own personal list of what God has taught me on my own journey.
1) Health finds its level: If you are unhealthy and insecure in yourself, you will naturally attract people who are the same. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” If two unhealthy people wallow in their struggles together, they might feel like they are supporting one another for awhile. It often turns into an up and down emotional roller coaster. Sometimes they might turn on one another because neither feels like their needs are being met. Sometimes loneliness helps up put things in perspective: God is our ultimate source of comfort and guidance and sometimes we need to “get healthy” in order to be a friend.
2) If you are in a one-sided friendship, it is not a friendship, it’s a ministry: Back to Proverbs 27:1. There are two irons sharpening one another. Each is receiving while each one is giving. Do we want to continue a one sided friendship knowing it may never change? Do we have time and willpower for it? Will our spouse or family members suffer as a result of our commitment to this person?
3) There are always two sides to every single story: I learned this one the hard way. Two people I respected were in conflict with one another. I automatically took one side after only hearing the first story. After hearing the second, I was confused questioning my decision. Was I creating conflict by taking sides? Proverbs 16:28 says it is best: A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends. How easy it is to share the “dirty secrets” and half truths about someone when we actually should pray for those in conflict and help them peacefully reach a resolution.
4) The right thing to do is often the hardest: Admitting your faults, apologizing, owning up to wrongdoings, and sacrifice do not come naturally. It is easier to lie, backstab, attack, be passive/aggressive, gossip, pretend like nothing happened, be condescending, blame, dig up the past, argue, withdraw, and hold a grudge. Jesus Christ taught us to “turn the other cheek.” Doing what pleases God brings freedom and joy that we cannot find in getting even.
5) Friendships end: We all grew up singing Michael W Smith’s “Friends are Friends Forever,” and that song did not seem to fit with the friendships that fell apart. One of my personal favorite songs is Wayne Watson’s “A Season In Your Path.” Sometimes friendships end because we move away and the friendship was not strong enough to withstand the distance. Sometimes we grow apart and find different interests. Maybe the friendship was unhealthy and it is necessary to spend time apart for awhile—or perhaps for a long while. Yet we can be thankful that this person was as season on our path. God put them in our lives for a reason.
I long to be the iron that is sharpening my own friends and empowering them to be men and women growing in the Lord. I am appreciative of the ways they sharpen me. The things they have taught me are treasures I will carry with me as I enter into new phases on my journey.