Even into adulthood it mattters that I surround myself with like-minded friends, women who share the same convictions, who anchor me, hold me accountable, and encourage me to love God and keep Him front and center.
I have always believed that you can tell a lot about a person by the company he or she keeps. And I have been blessed to know women who have been there through the many seasons of change in my life — from singlehood, to becoming a wife and mom.
Some years back, a number of these women sat me down to confront me about how I had hurt them. In shock, I listened to their grievances, unaware that I had made so many mistakes as a friend. It was humbling.
However, the good news is that today we remain friends. I am so glad our friendship was tested the way it was. Conflict, after all, can make relationships stronger when they are dealt with positively. We are still committed to being truthful and honest with one another because we love each other. Furthermore, we are focused on growing in our relationship with God, and whatever correction or advice we receive from one another has this goal in mind.
Every friendship I have with people at my age must be purposeful. I have to ask myself, what kind of person do I want to become and who are the people I want to surround myself with so that I become that person? When I was younger, I didn’t give this much thought. But now the stakes are higher. I don’t want to mess up as a wife or a mom, and I want to finish well as a follower of Christ.
Therefore, peers are important. As my father has often emphasized, it is easier to be influenced negatively than to influence someone positively. He uses the illustration of a supposed “good” person standing on a chair, trying to pull up a supposed “bad” person who is standing on the ground. Gravity makes it difficult to do so. If both were to exert force on the other, the one standing on the ground would with the tug of war. In friendships, it is the same way. The impact of negative influences is so strong that you and I are likely to be swayed by the perspectives and behaviors of friends who oppose our values. Sometimes there’s a time-release effect. The corruption is gradual.
If, for example, I frequently spent time with women who cheat on their husbands or take pleasure in illicit relationships, who enjoy gossiping about others, and get their sense of self worth from material possessions then it’s likely that I will eventually subscribe to their value system. Although the effect on my convictions may not happen right away, over months and years, I am certain that my thinking will be conformed to their way of thinking.
I am not saying we shouldn’t reach out to people who are different than we are. This doesn’t change our mission to share the gospel and invite people into God’s kingdom. However, we have to think carefully about the persons we select as part of our inner circles. These are the persons whom we open up to, confide in, look to for counsel, and trust with our lives.
Proverbs 13:20 puts it very practically, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
I would struggle to grow in wisdom if the close friendships I kept encouraged me towards foolishness. Since one of my weaknesses tends to be the desire to please people, I am all the more vulnerable to peer influence. So on the one hand, I do my part to saturate my mind with truth, but I also seek out people who affirm the truths I ought to live by.
“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24-25
So when it comes to the friends we choose, do they push us towards love and good deeds? And are we doing the same for them?