This month I am walking through the meaning of friendship. I’ve been thinking a whole lot about it as we recently uprooted and moved, leaving behind many wonderful friends and meeting many new ones.
It’s surprising how fast one feels like a junior higher again when it comes to making friends or even keeping them!
Rather than let my own meandering mind lead me on what friendship means or what I should do to retain or make new ones, I thought, why not look to Scripture and see what messages lie there?!
Today I came to 1 Corinthians 15:33, Do not be deceived, “bad company corrupts a good reputation.”
Immediately a relationship from the past came to mind. I was reminded of a woman I met through a friend at church three or so years ago.
This new friend and I had some things in common. We’d recently moved away from our families and moved to a new city. She had a toddler. I had a few toddlers. We lived in the same neighborhood. We both wanted to belong somewhere. Yet in my longing to belong to someone and to connect, I found myself quickly being influenced by a woman who I didn’t really know if I enjoyed spending time with!
Our conversations always started out with her calling me to complain about something or to tell me how someone we both knew had offended her. Instead of seeing this as a problem, I thought, okay, I need to fix this. I need to fix her pattern of destruction. I can do it! After all, I am a positive spirit and have plenty of wonderful things to say about people.
She will love me in no time!
I quickly learned that offering a positive word, however, did not fill her with happiness or change how she felt about her situation. Ever. It certainly did nothing to endear me to her either. Rather, it somehow added to her dark countenance. Why would I defend someone who had hurt her? Clearly I was naive and didn’t understand the situation. At least this is what she explained to me.
So in the two years we were “friends,” our relationship consisted of me pouring positive notes into her and her taking those and telling me why each one was flat or off or just not right. But I went right on with it. I was her only friend she told me and I was afraid of what would happen to her if I were to leave her. Plus I truly believed that just by being positive and by showing her what a friend was that she would fall in love with the idea of friendship and that she’d learn to enjoy friendship with others too.
I was wrong.
As long as I spent time with her, I found myself feeling more negative thoughts. I began doubting my real friends, the ones who were also part of my inner circle–the ones who belonged in my inner circle.
I had this idea that I could bring her up to my level. She seemed to know it. And she crushed me.
I won’t go into how that happened, but to say that I haven’t talked to her since (all her choosing) is enough. She wanted to control me and coerce me into feeling the same ways that she did, which constantly filled my mind with lies and messages that were hurtful. I am positive that this not only harmed me but my reputation as well. After all, I was drawn into talking negatively about the same people who I loved dearly simply by getting lost and confused in dealing with her “issues” with them.
In the “aftermath” of that relationship ending, I realized a few important things.
1. You can’t make someone fall in love with friendship no matter how hard you try. And being a good friend to someone alone won’t make that person learn how special and important friendship is.
2. You can’t make someone like you either. They either do or they don’t. No need to spend hours (or years) of your life trying to garner that attention or affection. The Lord has people for us and I’m just as certain that Someone Else has others in mind He can use to distract us or bring us down.
3. You ought to ensure that those inner circle friends are ones who share your values and who make you better than you are without them. I had let this friend into my inner circle, and I had ignored the slow poison that seeped into me when she was around. Once she got into that space, she tried pushing every other friend I had out, finding reasons that none of them deserved to occupy a place in my life. It was a slow process but looking back I can see it clearly.
Paul reflects a message in 1 Corinthians that resounds a similar message from Joshua 23. The Lord had commanded the Israelites to be cautious about who they aligned themselves with as a nation, especially when it came to who they worshipped. I’m certain that we aren’t to shun those who have different values, but the point is that those we surround ourselves with on a day to day basis, who are the closest to us, ought to be those who are building us up, challenging us to become better, strengthening our faith–not doing the reverse.