“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Friendship is one of the most elusive concepts of the human experience. Gaining clarity on this rather important dimension of existence has been one the most sobering and difficult lessons of my lifetime. The fact that there are so many distortions of friendship in our culture (Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, etc.) does not bring us any closer to a satisfactory grasp of what friendship truly is. So let me give it a try. This is my working definition for friendship:
the Divine orchestration of two lives forming one bond that inspires these individuals to live as whole and authentic persons in pursuit of purpose.’
In light of this very specific definition, I’ve learned a few things about friendship:
Most of the people we call our ‘friends’ are, in truth, not so!
Just because I’ve become acquainted with someone does not make them my friend. Also, a friend is not simply someone with whom I regularly associate. Just because someone has proximity to us or shares a common interest does not mean that he or she is really our friend. And just because I’ve known someone for an extended period of time does not mean that she is my friend either. It just means that we share a common past. And most of the people from our past are not a proper fit for our present and future life.
Friendship is both cyclical and seasonal.
A person whom I consider a friend today, may not be my friend tomorrow. This is not necessarily a negative reality. It could be that the friendship was only supposed to be for a season. I’ve also learned that friends sometimes have to go their separate ways for a time and grow individually. Sometimes growth must happen in people while they are apart from one another. That is, sometimes friends must grow apart before they can go together. It is healthy to let go of such attachments that have run their course.
Friends tend to come one at a time and not in herds.
Ask MC Hammer, Mike Tyson or any other person who’s had a posse about this fact. Proverbs 19:4 says: “Wealth attracts many friends, but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.” That is, the crowd is drawn to what you have. But a true friend is drawn to who you are. If you have just one good friend you are far ahead of most people.
Being alone is not as bad as you may think.
Many of us look to others for our sense of self-worth and esteem. But these are best discovered on our own in God’s Presence. There are seasons of our lives when God thins out the herd when it comes to friends. It is in these times that God speaks to us most deeply. Friends are best enjoyed after you’ve had a sustained season of solitude. Self-aware and self-possessed people make the very best friends because they know whom they are and what they have to offer to others.
So what have we learned about friendship? Don’t place a premium on your 870 Facebook friends or who is following you on Pinterest. Look for quality connections rather than a multiplicity of associations. Accept the reality of ending friendships and look to the horizon for new meaningful relationships. View friendship as something deep rather than wide. And embrace your alone times with your Best Friend above. He’s been dying to talk to you.