When I was younger, it was pretty easy to make and keep friends. Conflicts seemed to be dealt with quite easily. But as I’ve gotten older, friendships have become more and more complicated. There are more factors involved and conflicts can run deeper between my friends and I. We become more defensive, and find it harder to forgive and forget. I’ve found that as you get older friendships can become harder to make and harder to maintain.
God is relational and God has made us relational people. So why do we find relationships such hard work? Ever since Adam and Eve our world has been marked by strained relationships.
Proverbs and friendship
What wisdom does the book of Proverbs give on the subject of friendship? Surprisingly, quite a lot.
The book of Proverbs spends much time describing and defining friendship.
One of the prime qualities of a friend is loyalty.
Prov. 18:24 “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”
There are friends who merely pretend. But there is friendship that goes deeper and shows more loyalty than that of a brother.
Prov. 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity”
A friend in need is a friend indeed. According to Proverbs there will always be fair-weather friends. But a true friend will be there through thick and thin. In case we think only of the friendship we hope to receive, we are told to give this kind of loyalty, even to our parent’s friends, in Proverbs 27:10 which urges,
“Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you — better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.”
You know that old family friend of your parents? Make sure you keep being loyal to them too.
Another quality of friendship in Proverbs is Honest Counsel
A true friend must be lovingly honest and should help shape their friend’s character.
Prov. 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Like a surgeon, friends cut you in order to heal you. If a friend says hard words to you out of love, this is better than kisses from an enemy. True friends will rebuke you when necessary, point out where you are going wrong. This is never easy to do, and unless you are a real friend, you probably won’t say anything negative. So if a friend of yours is sinning in some way that comes to your attention, the loving thing to do is lovingly, gently confront them.
Prov. 28:23 “Whoever rebukes a man will afterwards find more favour than he who flatters with his tongue”
Likewise if a friend pulls you up on something they think you are sinning in, don’t go defensive or counter attack, accept their words as words of love. For true friends counsel and encourage each other
Prov.27:9 “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel”
Prov. 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another”
Friends become wiser together through a healthy difference in points of view. Counsel and healthy disagreement in a friendship can make life sweeter and you sharper. A true friendship will have both elements. So be honest, frank and open with your friends.
That’s the character of true friendship. How do you stack up? Are you an honest and loyal friend? Can you say the hard words to your friends? When you friend goes through a hard time are you the first one there with a hug and phone call or prayer? Or are you nowhere to be found?
Real friends always let you in, and they never let you down.