The Hidden Value of Friendship
There are great rewards in friendships. All of us want to have friends and to be friends with those who are popular, exciting, and even influential. There are hidden values in friendships that transcend the 'act' of friendliness. This type of friendship is an authentic test of character and spiritual development.
I am convinced the saddest portion of scripture is John 5:7. The impotent man answered him (Jesus), Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. (KJV).
In this passage, the afflicted man freely admits that he has no friends. He did not say his friends were out of town, at work, or running errands for him. He admitted the painful reality of his distress. He was friendless.
·Friendship is essential for our emotional well-being. Without friends we drift in life's ocean, uncertain of our significance, and powerless to receive the instructions of others in our lives. Sometimes we settle for a life of seclusion instead of friendship. Joseph Addison (1672-1719) said "Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joy, and dividing our grief."
·Friendship heightens the creative talent in an individual. There is nothing like a compliment or a "pat on the back" to charge the creative drive within us. Richard Exley, in his book, How to be a Man of Character (Honor Books), quotes Dr. Paul Tournier. Tournier suggests, "No one can develop freely in this world and find a full life without feeling understood by at least one person. Misunderstood, he loses his self-confidence, he loses his faith in life or even in God."
·Friendships lead to mentor relationships. Men (and women) who have mentors in their lives have personal trainers who help strengthen them. True mentor relationships must evolve over time, and may begin as friendships. Chesterfield, (1694-1773) said it best when he penned these words, "Real friendship is a slow grower, and never thrives unless engrafted upon a stock of known and reciprocal merit."
We all would do well to observe these three levels of friendship.
·Find someone older than you, who will serve as your spiritual mentor. This is one who will provide a mature voice and has the time and patience to form you. In my teenage years, my grandfather shared some wisdom with me. He said, "Always make friends with old people. They will tell you everything they know." This sensible wisdom has been with me for many years, and many friendships. My mentor has been working with me for nearly 20 years. Anything you like in my life, it is a product of my mentor. He sharpens me, polishes me, and causes me to stretch personally and professionally.
·We all should develop a close friendship with one or two friends, our own age, with whom we can share everything. These friends are those in whom we confess our failures, temptations, wild ideas, and dreams. Friends our own age help us unwind by going to ball games together, or fishing, or in general spending time with us doing things we enjoy.
·Finally, let us recognize our potential to become another's mentor. Our professional and social circles may contain young "Timothy's" who need to benefit from our wisdom. It is was an awakening moment when I first heard the words, "Thomas, you have become my mentor." What a responsibility! Given to me was the care and feeding of a friend who said, "I am granting you permission to pour into my life, and speak words of wisdom, correction and kindness."
Friendships take time. Relationships take even more time. Time, judiciously invested, increases the value of friendship. Make sure you invest your time only in those who do not abuse your time and talents.
Let us not be afraid to speak into someone's life. If the friendship develops, you will notice soon enough. If not, you have performed a kindness that pleases God. The pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27:9 (KJV). Someone is waiting for your friendship, counsel and mentorship.