C.D. Prentice has written, “People who have warm friends are healthier and happier than those who have none. A single real friend is a treasure worth more than gold or precious stones. Money can buy many things, good and evil. All the wealth of the world could not buy you a friend or pay you for the loss of one.”
Do you agree or disagree with the following statements:
Most of us have a lot of acquaintances with whom we do things, but very few real friends.
From childhood we have been taught to be competitive rather than intimate, to see those around us as rivals rather than potential friends.
Most of our relationships are generally superficial. WE do things together; we talk about politics, business, sports, even religion, but we don’t share our feelings. We don’t reveal our selves.
As painful as it may seem, I believe we would all have to agree with the statements listed above. We desire friends, but how can we build better friendships?
Richard Exley writes, “A true friend is one who hears and understands when you share your deepest feelings. He supports you when you are struggling; he corrects you, gently and with love, when you err; and he forgives you when you fail. A true friend prods you to personal growth, stretches you to your full potential. And most amazing of all, he celebrates your successes as if they were his own.”
I wonder if you’ve experienced a conversation with someone recently in which you really connected. Have you ever had a conversation in which you feel that you’ve really bonded? Occasionally when talking with someone else, it’s almost as if your souls open up and you connect. You move beyond the “Hi, how are you?” You’ve connected.
Or do you ever have one of those conversations in which you just don’t connect? No matter how hard you try, you feel that you just can’t get through to that person. You could be talking to your teenager, and they look at you like you’re from another planet. Or it could be your spouse. You can usually connect, but for whatever reason it’s just not happening at that moment. We desperately need others to understand us – to know how we feel, and for us to understand how they feel. We want to be connected.
The California Department of Health Mental did a study, and what they found is so profound that you need to hear it. They discovered that if you’re disconnected to other people, there’s no one in your life that you really feel understands you, you are two to three times more likely to die an early death, you are four times more likely to suffer from emotional burnout, you are five times more likely to suffer clinical depression and you are ten times more likely to be hospitalized for an emotional or mental disorder. Human connections are good medicine.
This shouldn’t surprise us. Proverbs 27:9 says, “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” There’s something about an intimate relationship that refresh us spiritually. We were designed for intimate, loving relationships in which we’re enjoyed simply for who we are and not what we can do for others. You need people who understand you, who relate to you and who can connect to you.
David and Jonathan had a great friendship.
The Bible says in First Samuel 18:1, 3, 4, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spiritual with David, and he loved him as himself. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off his robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
What can we learn from David and Jonathan?
First of all recognize the chemistry of friendship. Their friendship was a gift first and then a discipline. Neither Jonathan nor David decided to become friends. It just happened! It was spontaneous – “Jonathan become one in spirit with David.”
Risk the commitment of friendship. “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.” This covenant was the formalizing of their commitment to each other, and it would be renewed again and again. It was a commitment to the friendship at all costs and enabled their relationship to survive the jealousy of Saul, Jonathan’s father, and Saul’s attempts to kill David.
Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” To put it another way, it’s better to have one, reliable friend rather than a number of reliable ones. An important key in relationships is being committed to the other person.
Do you remember when you made a major transition in your life? You graduated from school, you moved jobs, or you even moved cities. You probably made promises to keep in touch. How is it going? If you’re like most people, you connected with others and you didn’t miss the old relationships that much. You weren’t really committed to the relationship.
That’s not all bad. You can only be friends with so many people. But if you want to really connect with a particular individual, you’ve got to be committed to the relationship. You’ve got to say, “I will be this person’s friend, no matter what.”
Let me ask you: how many close friends do you have? How many have you committed to connect with, no matter what happens in your life? If you can’t think of anyone, this might be the reason why. If you’ve thought of one to three people, you are a very blessed person. God has given you some very precious friends. If you think that you have four or more friends of this type, you probably have a problem. Most people can’t have more than about two or three deep friendships. And when you find friends of this type, you had better be committed to them.
Now, acquaintances aren’t wrong. It’s nice to have a lot of acquaintances. But you can be so busy cultivating acquaintances that you never take time to develop deep friends. You don’t need many friends in this life, but you do need a few good ones. It’s better to have two good friends than a thousand acquaintances. They key difference between a friend and an acquaintance is commitment.
Good relationships take time. They don’t happen by accident. They take cultivation, work, and a lot of time to build a deep connection with somebody. That requires commitment. There are going to be times that the relationship carries a cost. That cost might be inconvenience. That cost may be difficulties in the relationship. It may be time. But all good relationships carry a cost.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Circle always. A good friend is always loyal. There are going to be times of adversity in which true friends are needed. This will be the time that many of your friends will disappear. But a true friend is always loyal. When you’re blowing it and you’re making a mistake, friends are in your corner when you’re cornered. And they see you through when everybody else thinks you’re through. They walk in when everybody else walks out. They are there with you even when you don’t deserve it. Every close relationship begins with a commitment.
This is especially important for men. Many men tend to deny their needs for deep friendships. It’s easy to coast and to talk about the weather and about sports. But we need accountability. We need deep friendships. We need to be able to open up to a few good men. Gordon MacDonald, in his book When Men Think Private Thoughts, points out that men begin to relate to others competitively. They feel that the investment of time is too costly. But he writes,
You, my male friend, are a relational being; you must connect. God has made you to share life with a host of people, not just your wife. You are meant to share life with other men as you work with them, fight the battles of life with them, and discover the world with them.
You need friends.
Now, ask yourself – who are you committed to? It can’t be too many people. “A man of many companions may come to ruin,” Proverbs says. Who are the two or three people that you will stick by no matter what? If you’re married, is your spouse one of these people? Once you promised that you would stick with them until death do you part. Somebody’s said that a lot of marriages start off as an ideal, quickly move to an ordeal, and eventually become no deal. Can you apply this principle of commitment to your marriage?
Who are you committed to? And who knows it? Have you ever gone to any single individual besides your spouse and said, “I just want you to know that I will always be there for you.” Have you ever said that to anybody? Have you ever established that kind of intentional commitment and said, “I want to grow close to you as a friend”?
You need to be committed. That’s the first key to getting connected.
Be willing to make yourself transparent and vulnerable. “Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David.” That was his way of saying that he had nothing to hide, that he wanted David to know the real Jonathan.
True friendship risks vulnerability.
Kay Brooks writes, “Shortly after my miscarriage, I met up with a friend I hadn't seen for several weeks. She pulled me into her arms and whispered, "I'm so sorry about ..." and didn't finish, afraid to say the wrong thing. After a moment, I released my hold, but Marge didn't. She kept on hugging. I squeezed back, but again finished before she did. I hugged again, stopping only after Marge released.
When I stepped back, I realized she'd shown me more than love for the moment. She'd shown me she'd hang on to me, longer than I would admit I needed her.”
When Jonathan gave David his weapons – his sword, his bow, and his belt – he made himself vulnerable. He was at David’s mercy. He had no way to defend himself.
That’s the way it is with true friendship. When we share “who we really are” with our friends, we are giving them weapons with which they can destroy us. It is the ultimate act of trust, and it is what distinguishes the truly great friendships form those that are just average.
Finally, demonstrate selflessness by preferring your friends before yourself. When Jonathan gave David his royal robe, it was a symbolic gesture showing his willingness to give us his right to the throne.
This was something that Jonathan did again and again with David. “Don’t’ be afraid,” Jonathan said in First Samuel 23:17, “My father Samuel will not lay a hand on you.” You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.”
Notice this: the measure of Jonathan’s’ commitment to David was his willingness to give up the throne that was rightfully his. The measure of David’s commitment to Jonathan was his unwillingness to do anything to make the throne his own.
A recent USA Today article portrayed vividly the courage of true friendship:
Anne Hjelle and Debbie Nichols were friends who were mountain biking on a wilderness trail near Mission Viejo, California, when a 110-pound mountain lion sprang from the brush, pounced on Anne's back, and dragged her off by the head.
Nichols screamed for help and grabbed Hjelle's legs, trying to free her and engaging in a desperate tug of war with the cat while other cyclists threw rocks at the cat until it fled.
Jacke Van Woerkom said she was riding behind Hjelle and Nichols and later spoke to Nichols at the hospital.
"She had some blood on her face. She definitely showed signs of a major struggle," Van Woerkom said. "She was shaking, trembling. She said, 'I was not going to let go. I was not going to let go.'"
Nichols described the tenacity of the cat, saying, "This guy [the cat] would not let go. He had a hold of her face…"
But the tenacity of the cat, was overcome by the faithfulness of a friend. She continued, "I just told her, 'I'm never letting go.'"
That’s true friendship!
Saw a cartoon the other day. The caption read: “Now, while the instruments play, please shake hands with two people who aren't in your clique."
I encourage you to reach out and make new friends. We are being blessed at our church with new people coming. As the old commercial said, “reach out and touch someone”!