Lately, I have been pondering what makes someone morph from being a pleasant acquaintance into a genuine friend. Does it have to do with the passage of a predetermined amount of time together, or would it result from a certain intensity of shared experiences? Where does having the same opinions and values on important issues fit in?
The Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus defines the word like this: Friend: 1. A person with whom one enjoys mutual affection and regard. 2. Sympathizer, helper.
Now, I do not know about you, but that sounds suspiciously like "family" to me, but I digress. If this is the definition we abide by, then I would venture to say that most of us have very few genuine friends. How sad.
Making and keeping a vibrant, honest friendship sounds rather like walking a tightrope and sometimes, our sense of balance is not too keen. Are you really supposed to say what you're thinking when your friend asks the dreaded, "Do these pants make me look fat?" Or how about when he or she is talking about problems with their spouse or boss? There must be a balance found between brutal honesty and tactful correction for the relationship to survive.
James 3: 8, 9 (ESV) tells us, "but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. " Yep, I'd have to confess that would apply to me at times.
All of us blurt out hurtful words or accusations in the heat of anger and misunderstanding, and about sixty seconds after it flies out of our mouths, we usually regret it. Unfortunately, the damage is done. Hopefully, the resulting injury can be forgiven and repaired.
Perhaps we should see what else the Bible says about friendships. Proverbs 17:17 (ESV) states, "A friend loves at all times …" and Proverbs 27:16 (ESV) says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." I take that to mean we need to be honest but at the same time, watch our mouths and think before we speak.
In this hustle, bustle world filled with rudeness, impatience and pain we need to slow down and remember not only what a gift from God a genuine friend is, but how to be a loving friend to others. I still have an awful lot to learn. It might sting for a minute, but I'll take the wounds of a real friend over the kisses of an enemy any day!