Evaluating Friendships

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It’s good to have a decent number of friends, but we should always bear in mind that quality is far superior to quantity. One Proverb that comes to mind is Proverbs 11:14 which reads “14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (V*1). This leads me to believe that based on this scripture it’s typically a good idea to consult multiple friends when we’re faced with a difficult decision in life. Of course, depending on the situation, you may consult different people. Some decisions may be very personal and require only feedback from people you trust a great deal. Other situations may be more mundane, something simple like “What’s your recommendation for a good wine off this list?” when you’re at an unfamiliar restaurant for instance. You’re probably not going to even think about getting very much feedback on that, you’ll be satisfied with one straightforward reply. It’s important that the people who you consult whether for the typical inquiry or the serious matter have your best interests at heart. If they don’t have good intentions they probably wouldn’t be your friends, but occasionally someone sneaks by undetected that may be in your circle of trust who doesn’t belong there. This is a great reason to evaluate our friendships and take into account our history with the individual. Until proven otherwise we should operate with a healthy scrutiny towards anybody who draws near to us. Likewise we shouldn’t be so rigid and self-contained that we don’t give anyone the chance to become our friend. This is something that you’ll polish over time. You’ll better understand whether someone has good quality traits, a foundation of trustworthy mutual friends, or a similar outlook on life. Each of these could provide us better insight as to whether someone should be given that opportunity to draw closer to us.

I think it’s also a great consideration not to drown yourself so deep into the opinion of man that you forget you have access to your ultimate friend God at all times. (V*2). It’s possible that He may use one of our brothers or sisters in Christ to advise us on an issue. Always recall though that there may be many times where He will answer our prayers directly by speaking to our hearts and minds. If you’ve already received a direct answer from God, and you can verify it as such through prayerful consideration and quiet time with Him, then don’t look any further. That’s exactly the route you should take, and you need to trust His will. If there is doubt in your mind as to whether you may be listening to the wrong voice or you feel as though God is quiet on an issue then you have a reason to explore that multitude of counselors. Remember that God never contradicts His word in how He will guide you, it’s just not going to happen. Don’t look for an answer that conflicts with what He has already clearly laid out in the Bible. Keep in mind that because one person may be reliable to you in life doesn’t make them an expert on every matter under the sun. This person could have the utmost intentions, love you to death, and have a serious willingness to help – but if they don’t know how to fix a car engine their opinion will matter little to nothing on this problem. You may not know your car mechanic or local body shop owner as well, but you may be well acquainted enough with them to consider that their advice is reliable. They may not be very close to you, but it’s clear whose opinion you should seek.

An alternative situation that someone could come across when considering the advice of others is that they consider too many diverging opinions. There may be more than one way to approach a situation, and it doesn’t necessarily imply that one of them is right or wrong. The answer may be subjective, and could very well lay somewhere in the middle of two extremes. For instance, you might be in the market to consider adding some stocks into your portfolio, so you consider the advice of a 60 year old friend who is near retirement age and the advice of a younger co-worker who’s around 28 just getting into the momentum of their career peaks. The 60 year old friend may offer more conservative advice, they may throw out some conservative growth stock choices for instance. They may even explain that stocks are a volatile investment and that you’d be better off at least diversifying your investment rather than “putting all your eggs in one basket”. The sentiment is clear, and it is strategically sound advice. They didn’t get to the age of 60 without learning a lot, and it’s clear that this shouldn’t be dismissed by any measure. The 28 year old co-worker however goes on to explain that there are a two or three technology sector companies that he has on his radar for months now. He explains how they’re on the verge of a breakthrough that isn’t very mainstream knowledge, and that any of the three or even all three would be a smart bet.

Do both of these counselors raise good points? Absolutely. Can you listen to both at the same time without ignoring the advice of the other? Maybe. I would turn the question around and ask what age you are and then determine what may be the more prudent path for you. The 28 year old’s choices may have the potential for a significant return on investment, but if his research proves wrong or unforeseen circumstances turn up that make them less profitable it could really put a damper on your plans. His advice might be better suited for someone of a similar age bracket who has a long time horizon to see the market through. The 60-year old, in consideration of his perspective, has advised more diversified and conservative investments, there’s nothing wrong with them. They may be too conservative however if they’re not taking into consideration that a young person could have more time to make more aggressive choices and doesn’t have to concern themselves with the brink of retirement anytime soon. As a general rule of thumb diversifying your investments and making strategically sound, possibly even conservative moves sounds to me a fantastic, prudent decision. Proverbs 13:11 speaks out “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, But he who gathers by labor will increase.” (V*3). While this may not necessarily apply to stock market investments, it’s clear that a certain level of scrutiny is welcome here. Especially when reading into scenarios that sound too good to be true. Both friends raise fair considerations. You may even want to take a combination of each of their sets of advice into your investments.

At the end of the day the 28 year old isn’t necessarily wrong and the 60 year old isn’t always dishing out superior advice. Consider your personal situation and where it sits in the spectrum of risk tolerance. It may not even be a matter of age either, it may simply be a matter of obligations. I am 26 years old at the time of this writing, but I have no wife, children, or significant monthly expenses. Somebody like me could afford to place more speculative bets. On the other side of the coin, a 26 year old with a wife, 2 young, growing children, and a home to support will see the same prospect from a different viewpoint. He may very well take the approach of the older gentleman, while I might be more considerate of my 28 year old co-worker. That doesn’t mean I would outright ignore the 60-year old gentleman’s advice, because I know that there is merit to what he shared hypothetically speaking.

One of the best ways to evaluate friendships is to have the discretion not to choose faulty friends to begin with. One of my consistent prayers is for discretion, prudence, and wisdom necessary to follow God’s will in my life. I am confident that God wants to equip us with His provisions, along with family and friends that fit well into the dynamics of our lives. If you can see someone has clearly different priorities in life, or despite their good intentions really don’t have a lot in common with you, it may be for the best that you both avoid a close friendship. A mutual acquaintance or even calculated respect could be appropriate, but it may just not go any deeper than surface level talks. That’s perfectly fine, and you should feel no pressure, guilt, or compulsion to force something that isn’t there.

You may even outgrow some friends, people that you once spent hours upon hours every day with who for one reason or another don’t really see eye to eye with you anymore. It may even be a matter of situational factors. They may have moved to another city and having lost touch with you and you with who they are, it just kind of drifted away. Nobody really desired it to be that way, but that’s how things played out. Again, maybe it calls for a little reunion or maybe it doesn’t, but scrutinizing an old friendship from a new perspective can be somewhat odd. So many different influences and directions in life to take, it’s very possible that you may have totally different lives now with not much in common anymore. This especially rings true when you’ve met this person at a young age and got along from a point where you hadn’t yet become adults. Adulthood brings new challenges and responsibilities. Quite frankly some people will want to answer those responsibilities and others will just want to defer them as long as they can without answering the call.

Whatever the case may be, nobody should have a serious problem meeting with an old friend, realizing that you’re in different worlds these days, and parting ways. The problem comes when you invite someone into your life and fall into old patterns or habits that you actually did well for yourself to grow out of. The problem comes when this person is a persistent negative influence on you and may lead you down the wrong path. The problem comes when you trust them because of old memories that are far faded and follow them down that wrong path currently. You don’t want to fall into a trap like this, so just be confident that it’s even worth your time to touch bases again. Don’t get too attached for the sake of old times. God doesn’t even want us to get too attached to our families compared to Him. Comparatively He wants us to hate even our family compared to how much we love Him. We can read this in Luke 14:26: “26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26 (NKJV). (V*4). This doesn’t mean that we ought to hate anyone, much less our family, this is a comparative expression that should tell us that God is to be loved with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. (V*5). We are clearly instructed in the second most important commandment that we ought to essentially love others as we love ourselves and treat others in the way that we would personally want to be treated. This is otherwise known as the golden rule. (V*6). Be willing to part ways with those that God wants you to step away from, even if they’re family or close friends, God’s commands outweigh the opinion of anybody else.

When you find yourself in a situation where the person you’re friends with is an energy vampire, and they don’t recriprocate the love, advice, and consideration you should consider cutting them out of your circle. They may not have bad intentions or even realize what they’re doing is out of line, but it’s unfair to you as a rule of common human decency that all they do is take from your mutual friendship without ever putting anything back into the pool. This kind of person will drain you and you will end up uplifting them at your own expense time and time again. Occasionally God may call you to help someone who is in dire need of help, but that’s a different scenario. I don’t think we’re supposed to measure someone’s worthyness of whether or not we should love them. None of us deserves the love or forgiveness of God, yet He still loves and forgives us. Likewise we should not question whether we should give someone love and forgiveness. What I am talking about is a long-term, close friendship where the person is all take and no give. There’s no justice in this, and one needs to really look at it from a detached perspective in order to see whether God is calling you to cut away for your own good. They may be detracting from your mission with God or taking away time that you desperately need for leisure and relaxation. Whatever the case might be, take into consideration that friendships are a two way street. There’s a chance the person could have a severe case of depression, anxiety, worries, stress, or severe personal dilemmas. You may have even tried to talk to them many times about getting help or tried to be there when they needed you the most. That’s all fine and dandy, but maybe what they need is professional help. It’s possible that they might even need medication, but instead they’re in the process of weighing you down. They’re letting their ship sink and they’re grabbing hold onto you and taking you down with them. Don’t let it happen, have the foresight to close the door before your ship is filled with holes too.

Find people that challenge you, have common interests, inspire you to be a better person, share a similar perspective on faith, and/or have a genuine interest in being considerate. Don’t look for people who will add drama to your life. Don’t seek out people who don’t fit your personality type. It’s cool to be friends with that super-adventurous person who loves thrill seeking and constant action on Facebook, but if your idea of a sweet Saturday night out is renting a movie and eating popcorn it’s probably not a good idea to hang out with them very often. From a certain distance this kind of friendship can work. It may even inspire you to take another approach to life into consideration and lead you to take some healthy steps outside of your comfort zone. It’s just problematic if you let it become a nuisance to you. All our individual identities should each be firmly rooted in Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t mean we’re all sharing the same framework of personalities, gifts, talents, interests, skill sets, and ideas. Life would be a whole order of boring and a side of snooze if that was the case. Thankfully God has made us all unique, and as a byproduct of that our personalities may clash with other well-to-do people from time to time. I have seen some Christians online that I don’t even get along with, and it’s a mystery how I even discovered this. They seem like fantastic people, I read their writings and I am stoked about their perspective on life and Christianity, but we interact for about two minutes and theres an explosion.

Maybe someone will call it ego, someone else might call it unfortunate circumstantial factors or a strange outcome. All I know is that within that timeframe I could see myself disagreeing with them on a relatively trivial matter, and somehow it’s blown out of proportion to the point where they block me or I have no desire to talk to them anymore. Life goes on though, and I should say especially in cases like this we should pray for them and wish them well in the future. I know that just because I didn’t get along with them doesn’t mean they’re bad people or that I am an argumentative person. I get along with almost every person I meet face to face whether they be Christian or non-Christian, but sometimes anomalies happen.

Thankfully I am not in the business of being a people pleaser. If you become a slave to making people happy, you’re not focusing enough on God’s mission for you. Focus on God’s mission for you, and let the people that want to be happy be happy. Let the people who want to hate on your actions or envy you do their thing, just don’t encourage that negativity. Nobody should have time for that, as it fixes none of their problems and adds one more. Agree to disagree with the people who clearly have no interest in getting along with you or understanding your perspective and save yourself the time of trying to convince someone why you’re great. God knows you’re great, your real friends and family know you’re great, and you should have the confidence to know you bring a lot to any room or table. Don’t sell yourself short, you’re a blessing to everyone you come into contact with when you’re an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

In the end when you allow God to formulate your friendships you don’t have to be worried about people coming or going. I have some friends that I may not talk to for months or even years, and we’ll catch up some time later as if nothing changed. They’re almost like timeless relationships where I just know that the continuity is strong enough and that’s honestly pretty nice. Don’t ever become reliant on another human being for your personal joy, satisfaction, or happiness. I would venture to say the only one that has a direct correlation with you is your spouse. You cannot really get passed being one flesh with someone, but then your aim is to love her as Christ loves the Church and she should submit to your Spiritual leadership. When you only rely on Jesus Christ for your happiness, you will not let people dictate your happiness or sadness. Sure a friend that we truly value may have an impact on our emotional state, that’s part of life, but we don’t have to let it be the defining element of our perspective or lead us to stay in a negative place. Don’t give anyone that much control, because no matter how good, cool, or generally well-mannered they may seem everyone can make mistakes and anyone can let you down. God never lets any of us down, He is not in the business of it. So when you rest in Him, you’ll know that you cannot be disappointed.

Detach yourself from trying to control who stays in your life and who steps out. If someone wants to stop talking to you or leave your life tell them straight out “Hey the door is over there, don’t let it hit you on the way out. God bless. Have a good life.” If someone wants to join you and spend more time with you, evaluate whether they add value to your life. (V*7). You bring a lot of value to others, you look out for the best for them, you’re considerate of their feelings and circumstances, and ultimately you are a well intended person. If anything they’re in a position where they have to earn your friendship even if they feel you have to earn theirs. Don’t look at this as a snobby stance to take, just remember that you’re an asset. The fact that I think highly of myself because of what God has done in my life doesn’t mean you have to have high standing with the world to interact with me. I can just as easily be speaking with a homeless man as the president of the Unites States. As far as I am concerned they’d be all the more blessed after having talked with me. That’s how I truly feel, and if they or anyone else doesn’t agree with that assessment it’s your right to formulate your own opinion and be your own person. Have a high regard for yourself, but don’t let it get to your head. Be the humble champion and keep humility close. Don’t let worldliness become your aim or your capacity to make money lead you to bask in artificial accolades or worldly measures of success. (V*8). The only measure of real success consists purely of what we do that contains eternal value. Everything else will only be a fleeting memory. Make your friendships count, I pray that you build timeless friendships that build eternal value both them in your life and you in theirs.

Biblical References

V*1 – “14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV).

V*2 – “15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 (NKJV).

V*3 – out “11 Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, But he who gathers by labor will increase.” Proverbs 13:11 (NKJV).

V*4 – “26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26 (NKJV).

V*5 – 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’[a] This is the first commandment.[b] Mark 12:30 (NKJV).

V*6- 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31 (NKJV).

V*7- “20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20 (NKJV).

V*8- “24 Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them;” Proverbs 24:1 (NKJV).

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