Define Your Friendships!
— Kay Taiwo
Every man should seek to have three individuals in his life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy.
A Paul is an older man who is willing to mentor you, to build into your life. Not someone who’s smarter or more gifted than you, but somebody who’s been down the road. Somebody willing to share his strengths and weaknesses–everything he’s learned in the laboratory of life. Somebody whose faith you’ll want to imitate.
A Barnabas is a soul brother, somebody who loves you but is not impressed by you. Somebody to whom you can be accountable. Somebody who’s willing to keep you honest, who’s willing to say, “Hey, man, you’re neglecting your wife, and don’t give me any guff!”
A Timothy is a younger man into whose life you are building. For a model, read 1 and 2 Timothy. Here was Paul, the quintessential mentor, building into the life of his protege–affirming, encouraging, teaching, correcting, directing, praying.
Do you have these three guys or ladies in your life?”
— Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.
Isn’t it true in our day that we are too quick to call people friends? The term friend is thrown around very loosely. The biggest social media platform on the planet even uses the term ‘friend’ to identify people we connect with on their platform, even if we were never previously acquainted. You are notified that you have a ‘friend request’. Should you choose to accept it, overnight you go from perfect strangers to “friends.” Wow!
Friendship is an important subject. We all can relate to it, but far too many don’t understand it. A misunderstanding is bound to happen when we fail to clearly define our friendships. Some of us have already paid that price.
There is a difference between an acquaintance and a friend.
When we fail to define our friendships, others will eventually get hurt, feel rejected, and even become alienated. Have you ever heard the words, “I thought she was my friend”? Perhaps you have said those very words. Well, could the problem be that you have not defined what kind of friendships you have?
Friendship can be defined on three (3) levels:
- Level One: Friendship of Pleasure: “We have fun times together”
Birthday parties, weddings, take vacations together. Here we do things together for the mere purpose of having fun.
We don’t necessarily call one another when we have needs.
- Level Two: Friendship of Utility: “We help each other in times of need”
You need a ride to a place, to borrow or loan money, a business partner, you need a text book to borrow, you need someone to baby-sit your children for the weekend.
The people that we often remember only when we need help are friends of utility. We reintroduce them into our lives when we have a need.
- Level Three: Friendship of Character: “We build each other up for life”
This is the highest level and biblical form of friendship. This is a true friend.
True friends can speak into our lives. They are not standing on the fringes afraid that we will be offended by what they have to say to us. If you cannot speak into someone else’s life or be spoken to without the fear of alienation, you do not have a true friendship.
Too much diplomacy and politeness may be an indication of pretense.
Food for thought: Really stop and think about it; we can see that two out of three (or 67%) of our definitions above are not true friendships but rather fit into the category of acquaintances. It takes more work and commitment to have "friends of character." It can literally wear you out if you attempt to have too many people speaking into your life.
In fact, there at least three ways to identify people who aren’t true friends.
These pointers I like to refer to as red flags:
- Diplomacy: Too much diplomacy or sugar coating words or expressing an opinion that seeks to avoid telling how one really feels is a red flag.
- Formality: This is a subtle (and sometimes obvious) cue or signal that is sent to you subliminally suggesting a lack of closeness. Formality in informal settings is like an invisible wall or signal. Especially if it continues to occur. Red flag!
- Rivalry: This is an obvious cue. If someone keeps antagonizing, competing, or opposing your interests, he or she would qualify as a rival not a true friend.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” — Proverbs 27:6 (NKJV).
“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” — Proverbs 27:17 (KJV).
Therefore it is foolish to have too many “real” friends. Why? You must qualify those who can speak into your life. Acquaintances? a dime a dozen. But true friends require caution.
Where most problems arise is when you or I consider someone to be a “true friend” or friend of character, but he or she considers us to be a friend of pleasure or utility. Each person brings with him or her a different set of expectations. By no means am I suggesting that we go up to someone and ask, “are you a true friend or an acquaintance?” That would be too rigid. I think with time we will know.
It is possible for someone to start out as an acquaintance and become a true friend for life. Give it time!*
*This message is found in our book: Agents of Change: Arise, Shine; Your Light Has Come! Click here for more information about this book.