Recently, I have come to appreciate more than ever, the privilege of friendships and relationships. It’s an amazing blessing to just enjoy true friendships and when I even try to establish how some of those friendships were formed, I realize many of them were birthed out of mere providence and today, it is those relationships I am celebrating. Some of them with people I have never even met but just share a palpable bond and kindred spirit that fills me with so much joy.
As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17) He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20)
We are admonished to bond with people who will encourage our better behaviors and characteristics. This is important because with or without our conscious consent, we eventually take on the characteristics of the people with whom we bond. We find numerous biblical cautions on this principle or law of bonding:
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3) Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul. (Proverbs 22:24-25)
In God’s definition and instruction for relationships, He insists that friends build up instead of tear down. The Scripture gives ample instructions for godly communication between friends: “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:5-6).
Think about a boxing match, during time outs, the boxers go to their corners to receive strength and encouragement from the team in their corner, their coach and team members most often would nurse their wounds, review the strategy and cheer them on. What strikes me the most is that the support is not premised on the boxer winning or losing the preceding round or even the match, they support because they believe in him/her and have a common goal. True friendship is there whether you are at the peak of your life’s success or at the depth of dismay. Let’s bring the boxing match scenario home and juxtapose with our lives, who do you have in your corner? We cannot be sharpened as iron if we are relating with wood or plastic. Imagine coming up for air from a tough battle and not finding someone that truly understands what you mean or feel. It is important that members of our inner circle are those with whom we share the basic quality of being ‘iron’, these are the people by whom we can be sharpened.
No matter how gifted you are or how great your destiny is, every David needs a Jonathan by his/her side. One that accepts you the way you are because they are confident of God’s purpose in your life, one that will not be silent in your error but able to rebuke you in love, one that is there in the midst of your adversity, one that will not be joined with others to slander you even if they are right and you have done some despicable thing, one that will provoke your purpose to manifestation, one that is loyal to your dream and one that encourages you when you are about to give up. Those sound like lofty expectations to have of any friend, right? I agree, but that’s what it takes to be fulfilled, imagine having a few friends with the aforementioned qualities, surely you will feel safe in their counsel, covered by their intercession, encouraged by their loving rebuke and accountable to them for your actions. Imagine being that type of friend. I am most grateful for the times my friends called me out on things I had done, or for the times I could sit down in humility and hold myself accountable to some friends amidst my struggle, knowing that I could be vulnerable knowing that they were in my corner and we had the same goal, to make me better and make God proud.
A friend ought to be able both to offer and receive encouragement and loving criticism. We need to come to appreciate both the encouragement and the candid criticism from our friends, as well as their kindness and generosity. A friend should never commiserate with or encourage his friend’s bitter attitude or rebellion against any of God’s laws, statutes, or principles but should encourage him to change course.
Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend does so by hearty counsel. [A true friend both gives and accepts good counsel.] (Proverbs 27:9)
Have I been hurt by friendships gone bad? Yes. But that is not enough reason to shut my heart to the endless spectrum of relationships life opens to me every day. I acknowledge that God is in people all around and I open my heart guided by discernment to like-minded people who can build me up as I build them up too. Now, the previous mistakes I made find meaning in the people I share them with who learn not to walk same paths. The life I live, I live for more than me, because every day, I am inspired by the strength of a friend as another friend is inspired by me. I have been blessed with amazing friends and relationships that have provided colorful fabric to weave the tapestry that my life is.
It is time to do a ‘friend audit’. Who is in your corner?
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