I’m breaking my own once a week rule here… it’s okay, I think I need to write through some of life’s things.
Well, what is a friend?
Facebook defines anyone you connect with online as a friend. Instagram and Twitter (which I’m no longer using) call your friends followers, that’s enough to think about it. It’s safe to say that social media has subliminally warped the way we see friendship. I mean, we spend all day in a virtual world where we expect support in the form of likes/shares. Where the avatar-based friendship/follow status determines the strength of your bond with another human being.
That’s just the virtual world.
I’m tempted to say that the circumstances of my life are naturally reshaping the way I view relationships. Being pregnant has sincerely opened my eyes to the value of life and it has inevitably given me with a new sense of responsibility. It’s not just me anymore. I’m switching positions, I’m getting promoted to mother, protector, nurturer, teacher, etc. Naturally, these things will affect the way I form bonds with others. And for obvious reasons, like the fact that I want my daughter to be exposed to good role models…
But being pregnant doesn’t suddenly change the fact that I am a part of various social networks that need regular maintenance. Friendship is no novel phenomenon, we are social creatures (no matter how great solitude is) and we have built entire worlds for the sake of connectivity.
How is friend defined?
Friend • noun
1: one attached to another by affection or esteem
2a: one that is not hostile
b: one that is of the same nation, party, or group
A friend is somebody we relate to through affection and trust.
Somebody that is on our side.
Somebody that belongs to the same group as us.
That last point is very interesting. Because we become the five people we spend the most time with, save the debate. Birds of a feather do flock together. If the association comforts you then congratulations, you’re doing great! If the association makes you uncomfortable then…make some time for reflection.
Who you spend your time with matters. Who you give your energy to matters. Because who you influence and who you are influenced by will certainly determine the trajectory of your life. And whoever holds membership to your “group” is also your representative.
We can find ourselves part of many groups. College definitely taught me that. But there’s something comforting in earnestly identifying with one group. Right now, my identity is warping not only as I become a mother but as I grow in the Lord. I am proud to say that I am a Christ-follower and I’ve got brothers and sisters all over the world.
2 Timothy 2:22
“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
This is my title above anything else, “a child of God.” The directive is straightforward: pursue all those good things along with those others who call on the Lord. I have many older Christian friends, I always have but I haven’t been lucky enough to miraculously bond with Christians my age. (That’s where I must do work!)
What kind of friend have I been?
Another thing that is hard for me as a newly returned Christian is the fact that I made SO many friendships with unbelievers. Sometimes I feel stuck between two worlds and that’s a dangerous place to be, especially when you’re ditching your old life.
While I’m still on the search for Christian friends, the enemy tries to make me feel alone, rejected, and misunderstood. Another temptation: to sit in anger or unforgiveness towards all the people who have contributed to these feelings. But Satan is no friend! He doesn’t act out of affection, he is hostile, and he is NOT a child of God.
So let’s ignore him. For the sake of correction, I have to look at how I’ve served others as a friend.
I like to call my friendship style the “amateur counselor.” Counselor because I tend to emotionally support more than I am emotionally supported, it’s my psychological nature. Amateur because I became overly tolerant, I would bite my tongue, and turn a blind eye to friends who made mistakes. A growing tolerance didn’t mean I was a loving, accepting friend. Good friends don’t condone bad behavior.
Accountability is something I’m developing. I must hold myself responsible and hold the people I love responsible because real friends are trustworthy. If you cannot trust me to be honest about your mistakes or to lead you the right way, then you cannot call me a friend.
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
1 Corinthians 15:33
“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.””
Thank God for change. Along with that, though, I can no longer relate to loved ones the way I used to. I no longer want to sit back and join people in complacent sin.
Sometimes I just want to talk about God but I can see how it bores other people. I don’t want to watch anything that has vulgar content. I don’t want to be around immodest or promiscuous people. I don’t want to gossip. I don’t want to be around weed or alcohol. NOT because I’m better than anyone who engages in these things. But because those are temptations! Those are the things that derailed me in the first place.
Friends, group members, can also serve as environments or opportunities. If I am aware of the ways that I might fail to peer pressure, I must eliminate that possibility of falling into temptation.
What kind of friendships should I aim for?
Let’s look at the Word, and see what God says about friends… I mean Jesus is the best friend we could ever ask for.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus sacrificed everything for us! He laid down His life so we could be forgiven of our sins. I want to be in friendships that are built on sacrifice–sacrificing bad habits and comfort zones to support one another.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
A friendship consists of two people who build each other up. Both friends need to work towards the improvement of the other.
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.“
Godly friendships are inspired by advice and discipline. To be a good friend, I must share good words with my friends and they should do the same for me. When one is wrong, the other’s position is always to correct them with love.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
“The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.“
Friendships must be pleasing to God. Real friends do not persuade each other into living by the flesh (sin) but towards God’s approval.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.“
Proverbs 18:24 (NLT)
“There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.“
Friends love each other through everything. Love does not depend on what one friend can do for the other nor does it seek to harm the other.
If our friendships are not in accordance with God’s word then it’s clear why there is struggle. Although the world has broken the way we value friendships, the fact is that they require devotion from all parties. Two must be on the same page spiritually in order to comfort and nourish one another. Friendship is about love, trust, and growth!
Whenever we are feeling rocky in our relationships, it’s important to evaluate the social environments we occupy–one, to check our own responsibility and two, to check who we call friend.
Yes, I am making and looking for Christian friends. Sometimes this whole thing gets rough, but what a blessing it is to know that no matter what: Christ is my best friend.