Have you ever given much thought to what it means to be a good friend? Sure, friends and relationships are familiar realities to us. But have you ever given some intentional thought to this question? Ever strategized for say 30 minutes, on how you could be a better friend to a specific person? I, personally, have given a ton of thought towards my own future, calling, and personal development. Yet, friendships are a reality of my every day, and I can’t say I have planned nearly enough to make them the best they could be. Sometimes, I am amazed at how little preparation and investment I have put into these core components of daily life. I am wondering if anyone else shares the same sentiments at times.
I Need a Life Coach
For a couple years, I worked at a tutoring center and also as a Life Coach in a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. Throughout the experience, I repeatedly wished that I had my own Life Coach. Some nights I would come home tuckered out, realizing I had spent my entire day trying to motivate and guide other people, many of whom responded with significant resistance. I thought to myself, If I had someone who focused on helping me grow and develop in life, for several hours each day the results would be astounding! It was crazy to think about someone intentionally aiming to inspire, instruct, and challenge me (though I would dish out some resistance of my own, I’m sure). As I imagined someone wanting to invest in coaching me, my mind was enthralled by all the possible outcomes for Christ’s kingdom, all with a little extra encouragement from someone else. Sometimes, you need that extra push, you know?
Friendship is a Means of Growth and Development
Then it struck me, shouldn’t this be what close friendship is? Hoping my “life coach” would come soon, I resolved to start increasing focus on my friends’ lives and calling. I won’t go into all the things I think a biblical friendship should be, but I know it can’t be less than intentional and strategic work for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. Prayerfully consider the following questions as you think of a few of your closest friends, one at a time:
I have some friends that I think could do some serious damage—the good type of damage for the gospel’s sake. Is it possible that we are in each other’s lives to propel one another towards a more radical life for Christ? My friends and I have a common goal and this is exciting.
Friendship as Teamwork
The idea of marriage (a covenant friendship) functioning as teamwork towards a common end is one of the most thrilling things I can imagine. I would love to have this type of lifestyle with my future spouse and family. We dream and earnestly plan on how we could do the most for God’s kingdom. This literally sounds like the best way to live. Comrades for life! C.S. Lewis put it like this:
In some ways nothing is less like a friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; friends hardly ever about their friendship. Lovers are normally face-to-face, absorbed in each other; friends, side-by-side, absorbed in some common interest. …In this kind of love, as Emerson said, “Do you love me?” means “Do you see the same truth?” – Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?” The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance, can be our friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.
Pastor John Piper comments on friendship, describing it as “two or more people engaging in a kind of corporate self-forgetfulness. Their focus is on something outside the group. …I love the camaraderie of common passions focused on some great object outside ourselves.”
Working Together for Growth
When you think about your friends, do you think about what role you can play in helping them become who they are meant to be? In a culture that is all about advancing one’s own personal platform, this may come as a shock to some of your thought habits. But we all know that many habits are not right. Sometimes, I fear that all the “leadership training” conferences and materials recently are just fueling individuals to pursue the exaltation of their own personal platforms. John Quincy Adams wrote about leadership, stating, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Try taking some of that energy you use on racking your brain to figure out God’s will for your life, and reroute it to focus on mobilizing your friends’ calling.
Sometimes I go to the mental drawing board. I see a specific friend, their interests, character traits, circumstances, skills, etc. I start brainstorming. How can I be a reinforcement in their calling? Do I ask them important questions? Do I just listen? Do I offer my own thoughts? Do I help them to just laugh and relax? Do I connect them with someone else? Do I offer them the resources I have?
There are a wide variety of ways to be a friend. Be intentional and strategic with your presence in your friends’ lives. Please, dream up awesome ways that your friends will be used for God’s kingdom. I know many soldiers who stand behind the virtue to never leave behind a fallen comrade. Similarly, instead of racing individually, make your friends an important part of your faith journey. It is not just you against the world. Consider dedicating time to pray and plan ways to mobilize your friends towards this end. Given the Great Commission and the life Christ has called us to live, this kind of friendship makes sense.
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