At every stage of our lives, the people we share our lives and spend time with can profoundly affect our outlook and behavior. That timeless book of guidance called the Bible has important wisdom on choosing friends.
In childhood, our friends are most often people who live in the closest proximity and those we go to school with. They may be in the same apartment building or the same block.
We create bonds because of age or similar things we are experiencing in that location at that particular time of our young lives.
However, these aren’t necessarily worthy factors for choosing friendship. This may be our only choice when we are young, but once we get older, we need to choose friends more wisely and develop knowledge of the criteria to use.
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'”
– 1 Corinthians 15:33
Choosing friends based on proximity (where we live, go to school, work, hang out, etc.) can sometimes pair us with people of bad character. Good character should be the first factor we look for when choosing friends.
Keeping company with the wrong people can sometimes corrupt us. Peer pressure can lead us to do things we usually wouldn’t do without the influence of others. It can ruin our reputation, get us addicted to drugs or alcohol, get us in trouble with the law, or even get us killed.
Here are 5 important criteria to consider when choosing friends.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
We want friends that are going to bring out the best in us. People we can look to as a good example. Perhaps even people who are a little bit better in some way than us, who can help us rise to a higher level.
“That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:11
We all need emotional support and guidance in life. Good friends offer this, but only when we ask it. They are good listeners. They may even support our decisions, as long as it isn’t going to hurt us, even if they don’t agree. And if they think the decision will hurt us, they’ll speak up. They may even pitch in with physical or financial help. Although, financial help should never be an expectation we have of friends.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Friendship is give-and-take. A friend isn’t someone who’s there only to serve our needs. A friend is someone we can offer something of value to. They may be at a higher level in some aspects of life than we are, but we do not need to be equals in every aspect. Being there for someone else, being their support system, is valuable to anyone. We need to be the type of friend we would want someone to beat us. Treat others as we would like to be treated. Offer the kind of love we would want to receive.
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
– Proverbs 27:5-6
A good friend isn’t a “yes” person or an enabler. A good friend is someone who will speak up when they see us doing wrong and help us get back on the right track. None of us are faultless or infallible. It doesn’t help us become stronger if all our friends always agree with everything we say or do. A true friend points out, kindly, when we are wrong or making a mistake. They help us avoid trouble.
“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
There is such a thing as too many friends. That often comes down to acquaintances or companions who don’t meet the definition of friends. The number of true friends in your life usually can be counted on one or two hands. Someone you can call in the middle of the night when you’re in a tough situation and can count on. Someone you can trust without question. Someone you can disagree with, and it won’t alter your relationship.
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