The Gift of Friendship and the Godliness of Good Friends (Part 3)
Question 2: Are You a Foul Friend?
Let me suggest three traits.
First, a foul friend is quick to criticize. In my opinion, there are two kinds of people that have the hardest time making friends. One is the person wants to have friends so badly she can’t understand what it means to be a friend. These people are socially unaware. They don’t ask questions. They see the relationship as a one way street. Everything about them screams “I’m an empty vessel ready for you to pour your love and affirmation and curiosity into me.”
The other type that has a hard time making friends is the super critical person. These people have an opinion on everything and must verbalize that opinion to everyone (probably bloggers!). More than just offering their opinion, they rain down a relentless barrage of negativity. “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent” (Prov. 11:12).
A few weeks ago I was riding in a car with an older Christian man I’d never met before. I was struck by the bridle he put on his tongue. He would ask me a question and when he saw that we might not completely agree, he’d simply say, “I see you’ve thought about that. I don’t need to say anything more.” He asked good questions and kept his thoughts to himself sharing them would have served no constructive purpose. Bad friends share every thought, however critical, as a means of self-expression. They don’t think what their words are doing or whether they are necessary in this situation.
Consequently, the foul friend gets into conflict that could have been avoided. “Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm” (Prov. 3:29-30). It’s all too easy to ruin friendships because we had a bad day. It’s just as easy to get into a senseless argument because of our own jealousy, insensitivity, or hypersensitivity. Foul friends are quick to criticize.
Second, a foul friend is annoying. We’re not talking personality or temperament. Some people rub us the wrong way. Fine. But other people are just plain rude. Rude, annoying people aren’t aware of, or don’t care about, social customs and cultural norms. This may seem like an innocent quirk, but the Bible calls it sin (1 Cor. 13:5).
Proverbs gives two concrete examples of annoyingness in action.
1) Being obnoxious. “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing” (Prov. 27:14). Got it? Don’t be the life of the party when you wake up. (Kids, this applies to you too.)
2) Not knowing your place. “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you” (Prov. 25:17). If you’re the sort of friend who comes over unannounced, never says please or thank you, always expects people to wait on you, and has no recognition of your role as a guest, then you’re not the sort of friend people are looking for.
Third, a foul friend can’t be trusted. This may mean you’re a blatant liar (Prov. 23:10-11; 25:18). But duplicity can be more subtle. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give’–when you have it with you” (Prov. 3:27-28). Foul friends don’t keep their end of the bargain. They don’t return favors. They don’t give back what they borrow. They are slow to help and quick to look for ways to avoid being put upon. You can’t trust them to keep their word.
Along the same lines, they are careless with their words. “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking’” (Prov. 26:18-19). Words hurt after you launch them, no matter what you say your intention was. So be careful. If you don’t care about the effect of your words, people won’t trust you. And if you can’t be trusted you won’t be a very good friend.