Last week I wrote about enemies being unintentional allies. What I didn’t say (because the post was already long-winded enough), was that your enemies are only your allies if you are firmly grounded in your identity. Otherwise, they’ll just make you feel inadequate, which is usually what they want.
That’s why it is of greater value for you to stay connected to your intentional allies: your friends.
My mother always told me that a person is known by the company they keep. From the time I was very young, she stressed the importance of finding and keeping good friends.
Oddly enough, it’s a lesson I found myself repeating–almost verbatim–to my 5 year-old niece. Apparently, Baby-Doll has a few friend/enemies who think she’s the bee’s knees one day, and an outcast the next. After reminding her what a wonderful little girl she is, I told her that if her friends were mean to her, they were not good friends, and that if she found girls who liked her for exactly who she was every day, she wouldn’t be as sad.
The most important people in my life are the ones who love and appreciate me without conditions. By their influence, they encourage me to be kinder, more compassionate toward others, more giving in my relationships, and more ambitious in work and in life.
Just being in their presence makes me want to be a better person. If I am known by the people I surround myself with, I want to be known by my friends and my family.
My mother is a great example. She has been a pillar of our community for s long as I can remember. Not just in our neighbourhood, but across the province. My mother knows a lot of people because of her job. Whenever I meet one of her clients, they tell me the same thing, “I love your mother”.
My mom doesn’t like to brag about how great she is, so I’ll do it for her. My mom is awesome. She’s helped so many people, just by being her radiant, generous, wise, and encouraging self. What I like best about my mother, and about all of the friends I’ve made, is their refusal to allow anyone to settle for conventional.
I have a friend who left a successful career to go to university in another country. Instead of settling for the accolades, steady paycheck, and security of her job, she took a leap of faith and left it all behind. She was determined to achieve her goals. Even if it meant risking what she had.
Her example has challenged me with the task of seeking a greater purpose for my life and being courageous enough to move when the time comes.
I have another friend, who is an exuberant people-person. She automatically makes people feel at ease, simply by taking an interest in them. She has such a warm and caring personality that others can’t help but be drawn to her.
Her example challenged me to break out of my shell.
My final friend has a countenance that is like a ray of sunshine. Darkness can’t help but concede defeat in her presence. She’s one of a handful of Facebook (and real-life) friends who never has anything bad to say about anyone, or anything, at any time. Ever. She’s great at keeping things in perspective, and if something doesn’t go the way she planned, she still sees the positives.
Her example has challenged me to accept that I only control a small portion of my life. God controls the rest. Also? Everything is better when you have a joyful heart.
I have many more friends, and they have all taught me something through their example. My original point is this: when you have all the right people in your life, you don’t fee any pressure to pay attention to all the wrong ones.
I respect my friends because they feel comfortable enough with me to offer constructive criticism when I do or say something stupid. I unconsciously have them in mind whenever I think of acting a fool. (And thankfully, I don’t succumb. Most of the time.)
The bible says that bad company corrupts good character, but I wonder, can good company influence bad character? If I’m sarcastic, (guilty as charged!) the presence of someone who is earnest may encourage me to say what I really mean. (Maybe) Or if I’m lazy, the presence of someone who works hard may lead me to work hard, so I don’t look bad in comparison.
Only God knows.
What I do know, is that, in this season, I need to be surrounded by people who are committed to being better. Not superior. Superiority suggests that there are always people who are inferior to you. (There aren’t, so stop believing your own hype.) Rather, I want to be nicer, wiser, accepting of others, and more successful at everything I do. The only way I can do that is by spending time with people who are nicer, wiser, more accepting, and more successful than me.
By being in their presence, I can learn how they do it.
Mediocrity breeds mediocrity and greatness breeds greatness. The good thing is you don’t have to be perfect to be great, but having great, encouraging friends definitely helps.
There’s an old saying, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are “. Enemies only have a foothold where there isn’t a sufficient network of friends. I am thankful because my friends are rock-solid. They call me on my B.S., keep me humble when I get too full of myself, help me loosen up and have fun, and remind me to focus on what and who is important to me.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the wits of another.” Proverbs 27:17 (GWT)
Dull, mediocre, settle-for-average, friends don’t sharpen anyone, so find a few who encourage you to be greater.