The past couple of posts on friendships, I have talked about how friends affect and hurt us with their actions and words. I have tried to comfort you about the situations that you have experienced and I have, to the best of my limited capabilities, tried to assure you that things will be alright. Today’s post is going to go in a different direction. This one is going to focus on us and hopefully help us assess how good of a friend we are.
I don’t know about you, but I live in a constant state of thinking that I need to be better. I guess it stems from my biblical calling to live like Christ. Every day I wake up with the same goal- live like Christ. Every day I fail. I push toward a goal that I can’t reach and it has made me a better person. I evaluate myself every day and look for ways I can be better- that includes being a better friend, especially to those close to me. In one of my self-assessments I discovered that I needed to add something to my daily goal of living like Christ. I discovered that I need to strive every day to LOVE like Christ as well. I know that I will never reach either goal, but its that challenge, that desire to be as much like my Savior as possible that drives me to be a better man. So, today, I am going to ask us to do something very difficult, I want us to really evaluate ourselves as friends, because we have little right to complain about our friends if we are not living up to our end.
Where do we start with this evaluation? This question is easy to uncover as we only need to look one place and ask one question; do we love our friends? I said the question was easy to uncover, answering it is not that easy, so before you start saying, “of course I do,” keep reading. I’m not talking about loving what your friends do for you or loving what you all do together, I mean real love. You see real love, whether in a friendship, romantic relationship, or a marriage, is something you do for someone else, not yourself. To truly love someone, in this case your friends, you have to be completely selfless- that is not an easy thing to do in the culture in which we live. To be selfless requires sacrifice. You’d be amazed at how many people seek my advice and when I say that the solution to their problems requires sacrifice on their part, they essentially say, “Oh, never mind.” It is not in our cultural DNA to completely put someone else ahead of our needs. We are even seeing more and more of this in marriages today- which explains a large part of why our divorce rates are so high. It’s usually only once we have children, that we begin to put someone else first. This is also why, though you may have a large number of friends, you probably only have two or three really close friends- and that is ok. It is simply too difficult to consistently place a large number people ahead of yourself and be truly selfless to them. That is why I fail at loving like Christ, I am incapable of putting EVERYBODY ahead of myself like He did.
Ok, so how do we truly love our friends? When I perform weddings, my gift to the couple is a book by Dr. Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages. I have referenced this book many times, because it is the foundation of my beliefs about love and relationships (other than the Bible of course). I believe it is a MUST READ for everyone- Dr. Chapman’s work is earth shattering in he realm of relationships. In his book, he describes five love languages- I have mentioned these on occasion while discussing my marriage with Jan. They are 1) Words of Affirmation 2) Quality Time 3) Acts of Service 4) Gifts 5) Physical Touch. Now as I stated before and one of the key principles in Dr. Chapman’s book is that love is something you do willingly for someone else. This principle begins at birth with your parents, it grows and shapes how you develop friendships, and you take that on into your romantic relationships and eventually marriage. I truly believe that if you fail to show love to those closest to you, then you will likely find it difficult to show love in a romantic relationship. In order to be a good friend, we must discover how those closest to us feel loved and we need to supply them with that type of love, whether it is difficult for us or not- whether it comes natural to us or not. Remember, love is about them, not about us or our comfort.
My article today is not to rehash Dr. Chapman’s book, I want you to go get it and read it for yourself. What I want to accomplish today is to make us take a serious look at how and who we are as friends. Are we trying to love those closest to us they way THEY feel loved or are we trying to only love them as long as we are comfortable? What have we sacrificed for our friends? Perhaps an even better question to ask is, are we loving like Christ loved us?
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach
Dr. Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages. Northfield Publishing. 1995.