Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Having a friend that we can confide in and rely on for sound advice is invaluable, but we should be picky about who we choose as friends. Solomon says, “The righteous person is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12.26 NASB).
Thus, we will begin with those negative characteristics Solomon says one should avoid when befriending people. Do not befriend:
- A gossip (Proverbs 20.19).
- The short-tempered (Proverbs 22.24-25).
- Drunks and gluttons (Proverbs 23.20-21).
- The “unsteady” (Proverbs 24.21-22). [To fully understand this, you may need to check the Hebrew. For example, in one translation, a person “given to change” may join “rebellious officials” in another. This difference is because the Hebrew “shanah” implies repetition (“to repeat, do again”). So, Solomon speaks of those not willing to grow from their mistakes or have fickle loyalties. Hence, such people are unstable in their ways.]
- Liars (Proverbs 25.18).
- The untrustworthy (Proverbs 25.19).
- The inconsiderate (Proverbs 25.20).
- The violent (Proverbs 1.10-19).
Those whom Solomon says to befriend comprise a shorter list. Befriend those:
- Who display wisdom (Proverbs 13.20).
- Who will point you in the right direction (Proverbs 13.14).
In addition to telling us who to befriend and who to shun, Solomon gives us wisdom about how we can be better friends with others. This wisdom begins with telling us to avoid certain disruptive practices.
- Don’t repeat everything you hear (Proverbs 17.9).
- Avoid senseless arguments (Proverbs 14.14).
- Don’t overstay your welcome (Proverbs 25.17).
- Don’t intrude on others’ arguments (Proverbs 26.17). [Solomon likens this to yanking a dog’s ears.]
- Don’t call mistakes and misdeeds a failed attempt at humor (Proverbs 26.18-19). [“I was joking!”]
- Don’t gossip (Proverbs 26.20). [Look up Socrates’ three filters: Is it true? Is it good? Is it useful?.]
- Don’t be cranky (Proverbs 26.21).
- Don’t be inconsiderate (Proverbs 27.14).
According to Solomon, then, these are the causes of discord among friends. It may be difficult to recover a friend’s trust if they have lost faith in us. Solomon warns, “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars” (Proverbs 18.19 NLT). Solomon, though, advises those of us who have harmed our relationships. If we need to repair a friendship, we must:
- Get our relationship right with God, and then others will change their perspective of us (Proverbs 16.7).
- Be slow to anger (Proverbs 15.18, cf. James 1.19).
- Not speculate (Proverbs 18.13).
- Not quarrel (Proverbs 20.3).
- Speak gently (Proverbs 15.1).
- Speak less (Proverbs 10.19).
- Be loving (Proverbs 10.12).
- Offer honest criticism instead of flattery (Proverbs 28.23).
Yes, correctly applying God’s wisdom can ensure that we enjoy the blessings of good friends in this life. And there is a blessing in a friendship that Solomon reminds us of in Ecclesiastes 4.9-12:
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” (Ecclesiastes 4.9-12 NASB1995)
Let us seek and be good friends with one another.