Besides our parents, the greatest influence on our lives, negatively and positively, is our friends. The Bible has a vast amount of information about the kind of friends we ought to have – and their power to influence us. As parents, this ought to be high on our list of priorities to address in the lives of our children.
There is so much material on friendship that I cannot do it justice in a single post so I am going to be selective and deal with the types of friends we should steer clear of. Here are three categories of friends that we need to make sure we have coached our children to avoid.
First, we ought to steer clear of friends that are not loyal to others with their words. Years ago I heard something that has been both a challenge and a principle in my life – be loyal to the person that is absent. Of course, this refers to conversations where someone is slandering the character of another person that is not present, even a professed “friend”.
It’s simple, but it’s true: if someone will talk about other people to you, they will talk about you to other people. They are not loyal with their words. To them, friendship is an asset in order to get their own way. Charles de Gaulle said, “France has no friends, only interests”. Many people have the same philosophy.
The Bible teaches that friendship carries great responsibility and one of those is that we be loyal with our words. Here are some verses that deal with the consequences of being “friends” with someone that is disloyal.
The Bible says that “…a whisperer separateth chief friends”. (Proverbs 16:28) Don’t miss this! Those that talk behind your back (it’s interesting that it is referred to as “whispering”) have the ability to destroy even the closest of your friendships!
Here’s another truth from God’s Word on the matter – “…he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends”. (Proverbs 17:9) One of the characteristics of true friends is the ability of each to keep a confidence.
A little aphorism that has guided me in this area is “If you hold your tongue, you can’t be misquoted”. This is one area that I have pounded into the hearts of my kids – watch what you say and defend your friends! Sometimes they have not heeded this advice and it has always resulted in negative consequences.
On many occasions I have printed out verses dealing with this subject and attached them to the refrigerator or to the dresser in a child’s room. I was trying to train them in how to be a good friend and, at the same time, the kinds of people to avoid being in a close relationship.
A second type of person to steer clear of in terms of close friendships are those that bail out on you when you are in trouble. Adversity always sifts friendships – always! In fact, you really don’t know the depth of your friendship until you get into hot water and discover who is still standing with you.
The Bible records that “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity”. (Proverbs 17:17) This is a powerful character quality to teach your children, to be faithful and loyal to your friends, especially when they are down.
This doesn’t mean we cover up wrongdoing for them, but we love them and prove it by our steadfastness. Sometimes people can pull away from you and your friendship is not as close as it once was. However, that doesn’t keep you from being their friend. You can still love them, pray for them, and be loyal with your words concerning them.
John Churton Collins wisely wrote, “In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends”.
A pastor friend of mine, wanting to gain some wisdom, was talking to the great evangelist, Dr. J. Harold Smith and he asked him a question. “Dr. Smith, what was the greatest disappointment you have had in your ministry?” At the time this question was asked this faithful soldier of the gospel was in his 80’s so he had a lot of experiences from which to answer this inquiry.
My friend told me that Smith didn’t hesitate or have to think about the answer. He promptly replied with sadness, “Being betrayed by my friends”. I have never forgotten that statement. I never would have thought about it, but it has caused me to make sure that I am loyal to my friends, especially in their times of adversity. And I want my children to do the same – and to have friends that will do likewise.
A third category of person to avoid having as a close friend is someone that has a temper. The Bible is very explicit about this. Angry people make bad friends because they say and do things in the heat of the moment that hurts a lot of people and leaves them with deep regrets.
God’s Word is plain – “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…” (Proverbs 14:17)
Another very interesting truth in the Bible about this issue states that if we hang around them we will become like them and anger will begin to characterize our responses.
“Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to they soul”. (Proverbs 22:24-25)
Anywhere an angry man (or teenager) goes there is left in their wake broken relationships and more trouble – “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression”. (Proverbs 29:22)
My daughter, Ashley, met her husband, Bryan, in college. They played basketball and traveled together on trips frequently as Ashley was on the girl’s team and Bryan played for the guys team (of course!). I only got to see two of their games (their school was 600 miles away) – once in Birmingham, Alabama and the other in Nashville, Tennessee. Both sites exactly 100 miles from Huntsville.
By this time I knew of Ashley’s interest in Bryan and I enjoyed seeing Ashley play (she played center mostly), but I was more intrigued in watching Bryan play. I wanted to see if he hustled and gave his best (that says a lot about a person’s character), but most of all, I wanted to see how he reacted in tense situations. In short, I wanted to know if he was an angry person.
Well, Bryan did hustle (always all out every time up and down the court) and he kept remarkably calm when he was jostled, pushed, elbowed under the basket and fouled pretty hard. I knew if he was angry on the court that he would be with his wife and children. I didn’t want my daughter or grandchildren having an angry husband and father. I thank the Lord for Bryan; he is a godly young man and doesn’t have an angry spirit.
Parents, you need to watch this in the lives of your children’s friends. The Bible says our kids will learn the ways of those they spend time with.
A fourth type of person that God warns our children concerning friendship is a friend that is foolish. One of the key themes in the book of Proverbs is that of a fool. Stern warnings are given against being a fool – and running around with a fool!
I’m just going to list a sampling of verses from the Bible on the dangers of having a fool for a friend. It speaks loudly and clearly about the characteristics of a fool and the consequences of being with them. Please do not rush past these verses! It literally may save the life of your child. (These are good references to print out and put in their rooms so they might learn them and meditate upon them).
“He that walked with wise men shall we wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed”. (Proverbs 13:20)
“Fools make a mock of sin….” (Proverbs 14:9)
“…the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness”. (Proverbs 15:2)
“It is as sport to a fool to do mischief…” (Proverbs 10:23)
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…” (Proverbs 12:15)
“A fool despiseth his father’s instruction…” (Proverbs 15:5)
“A reproof entereth into a wise man than a hundred stripes into a fool”. (Proverbs 17:10)
“Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” (Proverbs 17:16)
“A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself”. (Proverbs 18:2)
“A fool’s lips enter into contention…” (Proverbs 18:6)
“A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the destruction of his soul”. (Proverbs 18:7)
“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards”. (Proverbs 29:11)
If you child has a fool for a friend he can tear down in an hour what you have spent years teaching your child not to do. I have heard parents say, “Oh, but my child is the exception”. With all respect, that is not true. We all have a sin nature that is allured to do wrong. Fools only accelerate us in that direction and provide the venue for destruction.
Someone wrote, “A wise man learns from his mistakes, but a wiser man learns from the mistakes of others”. A fool doesn’t learn from his own mistakes or the consequences others experience.
I was in a Zaxby’s restaurant and read a sign on the wall that attributed this statement to John Wayne, “Life is tough, but life is tougher when you are stupid”.
My life has been enriched so much by good, godly friends. Aside from my Savior and my family they are my greatest treasures. I hope that I have been a good friend to my friends. It is a priority in my life.
“A friend is someone who knows all about you, but likes you anyway”. Let’s model sound friendship in front of our children; and let’s teach them to choose the right kind of friends. The quality of their future depends upon it.