Are You a Real Friend? Part 2

If you are going to have the kind of friends that the Bible says that we all need, then you’re going to have to wrestle with the counter intuitive nature of Christianity. So much of the Christian life is out of step with the way the way world works or how we naturally think on our own. It even seems to run against what we might call “common sense.”

For example, both our own nature and the wider culture affirm the one who gains the world while Jesus affirms the one who loses their life. Or we are repeatedly told that the road to greatness is paved in fairly traditional and self-serving ways but Jesus teaches that greatness is attained through servanthood. It’s a huge step of faith in God to find your life by losing it or to serve your way to greatness.

The same is true when it comes to defining a real friend.

Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

I’m sure that you can see what is counter intuitive in this verse. It completely redefines what genuine friendship is all about. Our social circles operate in almost the exact opposite way of what this verse teaches in that the norm in our world is to “kiss” your friend and “wound” your enemy.

It’s rare (bordering on non-existent) for a friend to challenge us, point out sin in our life, or a draw our attention to a flaw in our parenting or spending habits. Why doesn’t anyone point these out to us? Are you so naive to believe it is because they don’t seen anything that needs to be pointed out? Really? I doubt it.

One reason that they don’t say anything is because they don’t want to lose your friendship. They are afraid that if they told you that something that you didn’t want to hear, you would withdraw from them. And since they don’t want that, they remain quiet. (Actually the best case scenario is that they remain quiet. A more likely scenario is that they talk to others about your sin, bad habits, and poor choices. Don’t act shocked. You do the same thing to others.)

How have you reacted in the past when someone has said something to you that was difficult for you to hear? If a friend said that you were too lenient (or harsh) with you kid or gossiped or cared too much about what others think, or sounded arrogant, how would you respond?

If you understood and believed Proverbs 27:6, you would say, “Ouch. That really hurt. Thanks for being such a good friend.” See what I mean by counter intuitive? We are more prone to respond by saying, “I thought you were a friend, but I was obviously wrong.”

When someone says something to you that is hard to hear, what is your likely response? If you’re anything like me, it’s bound to be some combination of the following.
1. Defensive.
2. Blame shifting.
3. Attack the messenger.

Why do we act this way? Because we wrongly believe that those who say difficult things to us are our enemies. We wrongly believe that what they are saying is harmful. I say “wrongly believe” because Proverbs 27:6 tells us just the opposite. We mistake our friends for enemies.

Before I close for today, I want to tell you the only way that I know how to have the kind of friends that are willing to “wound” you. Ask them to do it. Give them permission to say hard things to you. Have you said something like this to one or two trusted friends? How about your spouse or children or parents?

“I know that this sounds crazy but I really trust you and value your perspective. So I want to invite you to share things with me that will be difficult for me to hear. When (not if) you see sin in my life that you don’t think that I’m aware of, please point it out to me. When (not if) you see me making mistakes with my kids or my spouse, please tell me. Everything is fair game. Nothing is off limits.

I wish that I could promise that I would immediately respond with humility and repentance but that might not always be true. But I will promise that I won’t hold your comments against you and let it ruin our friendship. I want you to know that I will see your willingness to say hard things to me as a sign that you are a real friend and not an enemy giving false or superficial praise.”

The goal here is to let people know that you believe Proverbs 27:6 when it says that “wounds from a friend can be trusted.” Yes, what they say will hurt a bit. Every wound does. But wounds from a friend lead to life.

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