Friends teach us about the world. They teach us about people. They teach us about themselves. They teach us about ourselves.
Friends build character.
Have you ever been friends with someone who had an entirely different perspective on life? It can be very challenging to listen to someone with an opposing view without becoming angry or defensive. But if this person is a friend, how can you not respectfully listen? And even if you fight over the issues from time to time, aren’t you faced with the reality that a real person that I care about believes something different? What a challenge this can be to your own beliefs. But what a healthy one. It is too easy to demonize outsiders. But if you can love a friend who opposes your foundational beliefs, and if they can do the same, what a gain that is to both of your characters. I’m not talking about compromising your beliefs. Absolutely not! This is about strengthening your deepest convictions, while learning respect and patience and humility.
Have you ever been friends with someone who shared your perspective on life? This can also be challenging. The challenge comes when they share your most foundational beliefs, yet respond to them differently. An example would be a Christian who had a different political leaning. Certainly there are conservative Christians and liberal Christians. Once again, it would be easy to place the opposing group in a box if not for the presence and perspective of friends. How could you see their heart and devotion and then brush them aside as if they were less than human? Once again, an honest friendship forces you to look the “other” in the face. It will teach you wisdom regarding judgement. And, it will force you to examine your own heart.
Friends also have the authority to speak hard truth to each other. If there is trust and love between friends, there may come a time when one party must speak truth. If the friend is acting in a destructive manner, it is more loving to speak the hard truth than to say nothing at all.
There was a moment recently when I suddenly understood something incredible about having close friends. Friends bring out a certain something in you that no one else can. The chemistry between friends is unique. Having friends develops your character because friends contribute to your identity. Each person has something unique to offer.
Now, I recognize that all of this has been positive. But there is a flip side to all of this influence and character building. If you don’t know who you are, or what you truly believe, it is easy for someone to negatively influence you. Even if you are strong in your beliefs, you are still playing with fire when you allow unsavory individuals into your close circle of confidants. If someone is selfish, or passionate about engaging in unwholesome behavior, how could they not influence you? In the world in which we live, I’m afraid, it is easier to influence for the worse than for the better. That is why we should treasure our healthy friendships, and work to sustain them.
Even one good friendship can save us from death in all of its forms.
Coming soon Part 5: Gifts