The Top Five Signs You Have No Friends
5. You are one of the five best solitaire players in the world
4. At your funeral the entire eulogy is, “Yep, he’s dead.”
3. Having a Halloween Party means dressing up your dogs and tying them to the furniture
2. Even your imaginary friends have stopped talking to you.
1. James Taylor sings the first few bars of “You’ve Got A Friend,” notices you in the audience and stops.
The year was 1980-something, my Dad called to give me the bad and sad news that one of his very best friends, who also happened to be my godfather, had just passed away. I told Dad I’d go to the funeral with him in Phoenix, so I flew in from Colorado, and my dad flew in from California and we met at the airport. On the shuttle to the car rental place, my Dad said something to me that I would never ever forget. I wouldn’t forget it because he kept saying it. He said it in the rental car, at the hotel, before the funeral, on the cemetery grounds, during the wake and even back at the airport. Dad was grieving, so maybe he wasn’t sure what to say, but he must’ve spoken this to me at least ten times over that two-day trip: “Son, you only get so many friendships in life, so make them last.”
Since that trip, twenty-some-odd years ago, I’ve been on kind of a quest. First, to prove my Dad wrong about only getting so many friendships handed to us. He’s right in that only a few friendship drop into our laps, we need to go out and continually develop friendships. But I’ve also been on a quest to make friendships last.
HOW CAN I MAKE MY FRIENDSHIPS LAST?
Milton Berle quipped, “The trouble with having friends is the upkeep.”
I’d like to suggest one key to making friendships last. I’ve been studying this topic and doing my best to keep my friendships and make new ones for quite a few years. I’ve also been reading a chapter of the book of Proverbs almost every day since my godfather’s funeral, and I believe King Solomon is on to the one secret ingredient to making friendships last long. So I’d like to reveal what I believe Solomon says is the main ingredient in long-lasting friendships. And I want to get at that key ingredient by looking at five statements Solomon makes about friendships:
1. Choose Friends Wisely
“A righteous man is cautious in friendship.”—Proverbs 12:26 (NIV)
The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
--Proverbs 12:26 (NIV)
King Solomon says choose your friends wisely. That makes a lot of sense on the surface, but when we pause to think about it, Solomon’s statement here is incredibly counter-culture in our world.
Most of us don’t choose our friendships at all, we just stumble into them. Do you know who my best friends were when I was growing up? They were the other kids who lived on my street. It didn’t matter if I liked them, there was no choosing. We lived next door to each other so we were automatically best friends who hung out every day.
We were friends with the people in our class, who sat closest to us. We were friends with the kids on our team, in our troop, or whose parents were friends with our parents. There was no choosing. It was all about proximity.
And most of us never learned to choose friends or even make friends. The friendless American male is a by-product of us never learning to choose our friendships.
Do you know the difference between family and friends? You get to choose your friends.
Hugh Kingsmill said, “Friends are God's apology for relations."
I think as parents we understand that one of our jobs, early on at least, is to help choose our kids friends. But do we take choosing our own friends that seriously?
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”—Luke 6:12-16
Jesus spent the whole night praying about his choice of friends. Shouldn’t we take it seriously too?
Mark Twain advised, “Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always can do that but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Here’s an idea: Let’s intentionally choose to make a new friend this month. That’s why we have clusters and events in our network, so we can gain exposure to possible new solid friends who are walking the same path.
2. Sharpen Each other
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”--Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)
Oscar Wilde observed, “True friends stab you in the front.” True friends sharpen us!
Maxwell revealed, “The most important thing I’ve learned in leadership is those who are closest to me will determine my level of success. A person almost never rises above the level of his or her closest friends.”
“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”—Proverbs 13:20
Do you know why so many of our friendships wane? We stop sharpening, each other.
I think of the man who wisecracked, “Charlie and I have been friends for thirty years. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for me. So for the past thirty years we’ve been doing nothing for each other…”
Let’s intentionally sharpen a friend this month. And maybe even ask a friend to sharpen me. Let’s sharpen someone else in our network.
3. Exercise Patience
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.-- Proverbs 17:17(NIV)
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. --Proverbs 17:17
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.-- Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)
So often we’re shocked when one of our friends does something wrong in our relationship. “How could they do such a thing?” we ask. Easy, they’re not perfect and neither am I! If we understand that people aren’t perfect, that selfishness and conceit and contention are part of everyone’s mix, perhaps we’ll be able to cut them some slack and build better relationships. Instead of playing the game of “You better be perfect or I’m not going to play with you,” let’s realize that all of us miss the mark.
Alan Loy McGinnis says in his book, “The Friendship Factor” that a giant key to great relationships is to understand that everyone has times of temporary insanity: “Occasionally a friendship simply isn’t working and must be abandoned, but most often, broken relationships stay broken for the lack of a patience that will let the other person act out for a while, allow temporary insanity in the other for a while, and then forgive.”
The key word is “temporary.” People can and will and often do change.
McGinnis has another book, “Bringing Out the Best in People” where he makes a similar point: “Morale builders build into the group an allowance for conflict. They do not panic when negative emotion occurs—they expect it and they are prepared for it. Morale problems rarely get out of hand for these leaders because they have constructed corridors of communication for the disgruntled student or the unhappy employee to use.”
Erwin Randall summed it up: “True friends are those who, when you make a fool of yourself, don't believe that this condition is permanent.”
Let’s intentionally diagnose the temporary insanity going on in our friendships. (Hint: I might be the insane one right now!)
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper.”—Proverbs 28:13
James added, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”—James 5:16
Here are some great quotes on apologizing:
“A true apology is more than just an acknowledgement of a mistake. It is recognizing that something you have said or done has damaged a relationship—and that you care enough about the relationship that you want it repaired or restored.”—Norman Vincent Peale
“In confession the break-through to community takes place. If a Christian is in the fellowship of confession with a brother, he will never be alone again.”-- Deitrich Bonhoeffer
“There appears to be within us something akin to an urge to confess. Not disclosing our thoughts and feelings can be unhealthy. Disclosing them can be healthy.”-- James Pennebaker
Recently a friend called me, “Hey, I just want to apologize,” he said. “I think I was a bit harsh in what I said and I wanted to make sure we were okay.”
I told him that I wasn’t offended at all, that I hadn’t even noticed his so-called harshness. But I was impressed that he actually called to apologize. He was more concerned with our friendship than he was about justifying his actions. That meant a lot.
Is there someone you need to intentionally apologize to today?
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.--Proverbs 17:9(NIV)
Solomon says that a lack of forgiveness separates close friends.
I did a sermon about forgiveness a few weeks ago. I did a talk on Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant—the guy who was forgiven millions, but then wouldn’t forgive someone who owed him a few hundred bucks. And I must say, I did a pretty good job on that talk.
But then a couple weeks ago I was at a conference and the keynote speaker did his final talk on that same passage. It is kind of strange to hear someone preach on a passage you just preached on. I listened thinking I’d heard it all before, actually I’d preached it all before. But then the speaker made a point that I had missed—and it hit me right between the eyes. He said, “Forgiveness is irrational.” It makes no rational sense to forgive. And as I wrestled with that I realized that I had not forgiven someone who had hurt me—partly because I had the guy in my grips and it made no sense to let it go. I actually had to pause, and intentionally work through things and forgive him. And that forgiveness has made a big change in my mood, my outlook, my life.
To have long lasting friendships we need to forgive, and the great news is, God has given us the strength to forgive because he forgave us.
“The greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.”—John 15:13 (NLT)
J.I. Packer put it this way: “God wants me to be his friend, and he desires to be my friend, and he has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.”
--J. I. Packer, “Knowing God”
Let’s intentionally forgive.
Choose wisely, sharpen, be patient, apologize, forgive. Those are five ways to ensure long friendships.
But I said there is one key ingredient to making friendships last. There is one secret. Did you see it?
The Key: Be intentional about friendships
We have to be intentional about choosing our friends.
Every Friday afternoon, a mathematician goes down to the bar, sits in the second-to-last seat, turns to the last seat, which is empty, and asks a girl who isn't there if he can buy her a drink. The bartender, who is used to weird university types, always shrugs but keeps quiet. But one day when the mathematician makes a particularly heart-wrenching plea into empty space, curiosity gets the better of the bartender, and he says, "I apologize for my stupid questions, but surely you know there is NEVER a woman sitting in that last stool. Why do you persist in asking out empty space?" The mathematician replies, "Well, according to quantum physics, empty space is never truly empty. Virtual particles come into existence and vanish all the time. You never know when the proper wave function will collapse and a girl might suddenly appear there." The bartender raises his eyebrows. "Really? Interesting. But couldn't you just ask one of the girls who comes here every Friday if you could buy HER a drink? You never know... she might say yes.” The mathematician laughs. "Yeah, right -- how likely is THAT to happen?"
We have to be intentional about sharpening our friends. We have to be intentional about hanging in there when our friends experience temporary insanity. We have to be intentional about apologizing. And we have to be intentional about forgiving.
If we just sit back and wait for long lasting friendships to happen, they are not going to happen.
But if we’re intentional, we’ll continue to make friends and we’ll be taking care of our friends.