Define Your Friendships.
Every one should seek to have three individuals in his life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy.
A Paul is an older man who is willing to mentor you, to build into your life. Not someone who’s smarter or more gifted than you, but somebody who’s been down the road. Somebody willing to share his strengths and weaknesses–everything he’s learned in the laboratory of life. Somebody whose faith you’ll want to imitate.
A Barnabas is a soul brother, somebody who loves you but is not impressed by you. Somebody to whom you can be accountable. Somebody who’s willing to keep you honest, who’s willing to say, “Hey, man, you’re neglecting your wife, and don’t give me any guff!”
A Timothy is a younger man into whose life you are building. For a model, read 1 and 2 Timothy. Here was Paul, the quintessential mentor, building into the life of his protegé–affirming, encouraging, teaching, correcting, directing, praying.
Do you have these three guys or ladies in your life?
(Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.)
Isn’t it true in our day, that we are too quick to call people friends?
Friendship is an important subject. We all can relate to it, but far too many don’t understand it. A misunderstanding is bound to happen when we fail to clearly define our friendships. Some of us have already paid that price.
There is a difference between an acquaintance and a friend.
When we fail to define our friendships, others will eventually get hurt, feel rejected, and even become alienated. Have you ever heard the words, “I thought he was my friend”? Perhaps you have said those very words. Well, could the problem be that you have not defined what kind of friendships you have?
Friendship can be defined on three (3) levels:
Level One: Friendship of Pleasure: “We have fun times together”
Birthday parties, weddings, take vacations together. Here we do things together for the mere purpose of having fun.
We don’t necessarily call one another when we have needs.
Level Two: Friendship of Utility: “We help each other in times of need”
You need a ride to a place, borrow or lend money, a business partner, you need a text-book to borrow, you need someone to baby-sit your children for the weekend.
The people that we often remember only when we need help, are friends of utility. We reintroduce them into our lives when we have a need.
Level Three: Friendship of Character: “We build each other up for life”
This is the highest level of friendship. This is a true friend.
True friends can speak into our lives. They are not standing on the fringes afraid that we will be offended by what they have to say to us. If you cannot speak into or be spoken into without the fear of alienation, you do not have a true friendship.
Too much diplomacy and politeness may be an indication of pretense.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. — Proverbs 27:6 (NIV)
Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.– Proverbs 27:17
Really stop and think about it; from our definitions above, we can see that two-thirds (or 67%) of the people we call friends are really acquaintances. It takes more work and commitment to have “friends of character.” It can literally wear you out if you attempt to have too many people speaking into your life.
Therefore it is foolish to have too many “real” friends. Why? You must qualify those who can speak into your life. Acquaintances? a dime a dozen. But true friends require caution.
Where most problems arise is when you or I consider someone to be a “true friend” or friend of character, but he or she considers us to be a friend of pleasure or utility. Each person brings with him or her a different set of expectations. By no means am I suggesting that we go up to someone and ask, “are you a true friend or an acquaintance?” That would be too rigid. I think with time we will know.
It is possible for someone to start out as an acquaintance and become a true friend for life. Give it time!