A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24, NKJV)
In April 2007, I reviewed a poem: 'Have you ever wronged a friend?' by Patricia Bankhead. The author was searching for answers I once searched for. And so I wanted to share with her, and others, some of my experiences where friendship is concerned. After sharing with the author, I decided to put my thoughts in the form of an article so that others could benefit. Most of us, at some point in our lives, struggle with differentiating friends from associates, and so this article is to share with you, some of my personal views on friendship. We all have different experiences of friendship and so my views may differ from yours but this is just a part of the whole, so when you read, treat it as such.
I've grown to understand that people come into our lives for different reasons and while some are there just for a season others remain in and out of season. I've also learned a few more things from Tyler Perry, through his production 'Maddea Goes To Jail', consistent with this theory. One point he emphasises is that of knowing the difference between seasonal and life-time friendship.
"Some people come into your life for a lifetime. Some come for a season."
He reminds us that we'll "always mess up" if we don't know how to differentiate between the two. When you confuse the two, problems will occur. You'll find yourself having "lifetime expectations" from a person who is meant to be in your life only for a season. He says:
"I put everybody who comes into my life into the category of a tree."
He relates the difference between, the leaves, branches and the root. The leaves are 'unstable' and 'seasonal'. Branches sometimes break, they're unreliable. But roots are stable, faithful and reliable.
The people in our lives that are like leaves are here for a season. They go wherever the wind blows. If you have friends in your life like leaves, don't try holding on, 'let them go'. When God sends someone into your life, it is for a reason. One thing I have noticed on my journey, as a Christian, is that you will be sent into people's lives to make a deposit or a withdrawal in order to fulfil plans for your life. More often than not, I am sent to withdraw as well as deposit. That is why we are commanded to love one another. Because if this element is missing, we become selfish and hold on to the knowledge that's been passed onto us instead of sharing it with those who need to learn that very lesson, in order for them to grow. A very good example of this is found in the story of Philip and the Eunuch.
So there is nothing wrong with having friends who only come for a season, for if the plan has been fulfilled, they have to move on to the next task. So learn how to let go so that God can open another chapter in your life. Holding on can find you stuck in a position you should have moved from, in order to receive your blessings. On another level, we sometimes hold onto relationships that were never part of God's plan for us and by refusing to let go we prolong the hurt and pain we feel.
Some people are like branches but can still break and leave you at a time you need them most or the moment you alert them to the error of their ways. Sometimes it can be difficult, detecting the strength of a branch, unless it's tested by a very strong wind. But here's one way of detecting, according to Maddea: When someone does something you don't like and you highlight it to them, they are worth holding onto. But if they keep on doing the thing that hurts you, they don't care about you. In a case like this you need to 'let them go'. I also view this from a different perspective in that someone may come into your life for a specific purpose (in answer to a prayer). Once they fulfil that purpose, its time to move on to their next mission and so it makes sense to let go.
Before I got married, I had leaves and branches in my life. A phone book filled with numbers and addresses. My inbox would always be full and my phones would ring off the hook. The moment I gave up the high-flying city lifestyle, to become a house-wife and provide full-time care for our child, the east wind blew the leaves away, and some of the branches broke off the friendship tree. The house phone still rings but not so regular. The invites no longer come because one too many times I've put my family before my friends. Do I let it worry me? No, because it's a new chapter in my life and my priority after God, is my husband and child. God always provides for me and continue to supply all my needs, including branches and leaves that will help me through this chapter of my life.
He says: "But if you find you two or three people in your life that's, like the roots at the bottom of that tree, you are blessed. 'Cos them the kind of people that ain't going no-where." They'll always have your back. Having found some roots, he encourages us to "hold on to them, but the rest of it Just let it go."
These are lifetime friends. In my personal life I describe these people as the ones who:
Pray with you:-
Every situation is an opportunity to turn to God. They will spend time on their knees for a friend; they'll start praying while you're on the phone with them because your energy connects and if something isn't right, The Holy Spirit will reveal it to them and they'll begin to pray. They will see you in a dream or a vision and start to pray for a specific need. When God places a praying friend in your life you are blessed.
Cry with you:-
Through the hurt and pain, you don't need to explain, for they understand. I remember my girlfriend cried on the phone because I was hurting and she wasn't able to just jump on the plane and come and offer the comfort, she believed I needed.
Laugh with you:-
When things are going great, they are happy for you. They rejoice and celebrate with you. I have plenty of those moments on the phone especially over last few years with medical results and even finding a house we could make our home and finding a place where we could fellowship with other believers. An overseas friend of mine was even making arrangement with my husband to find out when would be the best time to book his flight so he could celebrate with us. That made me realise the depth of my blessing where friendship was concerned.
These friends have helped me through some of my most difficult times. The friendship have been tried in the fire and came out pure gold. But had I not left it up to God to do the choosing, the friendship would have deteriorated under these circumstances.
If anyone steps out of line with the will of God, it is not tolerated in our circle of friends and should not be tolerated in yours. Once attention is drawn to it, apply correction where needed and help the individual back on the right path. It builds character and makes the individual stronger. It sometimes needs a spoonful of sugar and other times the bitter medicine is good for the relevant lesson to be learned.
We address faults, for true friends don't just compliment. A true friend will never tell you what you want to hear, they'll tell you what you need to hear but they are careful not to crush your spirit. So, if it's not something you'll be pleased with, they'll help you to smile again.
Pointing out an issue, to someone that's hurting you, if they try to fix it then that's someone who cares, keep them around but if they refuse to mend their ways though, they know it causes you pain, "they don't care. Move on. Let 'em go." Tyler [as Maddea] goes on to say: "no matter how much it hurts, let 'em go."
It wasn't easy for me to let go, but I did and God rewarded me with a circle of friends who both deposits into and withdraws from this vessel. I had to ask God to reveal to me my true friends. Those true friends are the roots that send me to the Word for guidance and correction.... Those roots became evident and it made the process that much easier.
God will show you, who your true friends are. Many times when your back is against the wall, you realise the people who have always been there, like a silent partner. And sometimes new ones will be sent in line with that prayer you prayed. They'll emerge to calm the storm and they will help you to get back on track.
So don't allow past hurt, bitterness, envy, jealousy, pride or any other of your sinful nature empower you. Your empowerment should come from Christ via the Holy Spirit who feeds you with the 'fruit of the Spirit'. With the fruit of the Spirit operating in and through you, you will see everyone who God places in your life through the eyes of Christ.
Friendship is a gift from God to each of us. Value your friends. Help them to get back on track when they slip up. Be happy for them when things are going great for them, even if your world is turning upside down. Pray for and with them. It is not possible to dislike someone you pray for. When you go to God in prayer for a friend it means you are developing a closer relationship with God. And you cannot go to God in spirit and in truth if you have hatred in your heart.
But most of all go develop your friendship. Friendship needs maintaining for it to develop to a higher level. Don't run at the first sign of disagreement. It's a relationship and you are getting to know each other. Whenever you have a problem with a friend talk to that friend about the problem, don't sweep it under the carpet or run to God. God is not the one you have the problem with to be running to Him, complaining about your friend. The bible tells us to confront the one who wronged us [Luke 17:3-5].
It is evident therefore, that there can be a variety of friends in ones life, at any one time. Some you may refer to as leaves, others branches and also friends like roots. So today, I would like to encourage you to see your friends for who they are, don't try to make leaves into branches, or branches into roots. God designed a tree the way He desired and likewise our circle of friends are in our lives for specific reasons. Find out what you have to offer and take from the friendship what you are meant to receive. When it's time for someone to move on, 'let 'em go', with your blessings; always being mindful of the bigger picture; God's plan for your life. And through it all, know that God is still in control.
The leaves, the branches and the roots all have their purpose in our lives. So we need to be thankful for everyone that comes into our lives, whether they become seasonal or lifetime friends. So let us be a light that shines into the lives of others; knowing that whether their influence are positive or negative, they serve a purpose and there is a lesson for us to learn that will help us to move to the next chapter of our lives.
Copyright 2008 J. S. Ramkissoon
Janice, a freelance writer, lives in the UK and enjoys spending time with her husband, Vince and their son, Javin. She uses her gift to encourage others towards a deeper relationship with God, through her inspirational pieces while her travel articles provide general advice for the holiday-maker.