By David W. Hegg
Someone has rightly said that a true friend is one who walks in when everyone else is walking out. In most areas of life, tragedy and trial bring truth to the surface. Your true character is best seen in the worst of situations, when the facade falls away and you no longer can hide who you are. When it comes to friendships, hard times bring out the reality of the relationship.
So, here’s a hard question. Do you have friends? I don’t mean acquaintances or peers or teammates. I mean people who really know who you are, down deep, and love you anyway. Folks who will walk in when others are walking out. I hope you do because life in this broken world was never meant to be lived in isolation, and the inevitable times of suffering and distress are simply overwhelming without the support and love of true friends.
But an even bigger question is this: What kind of friend are you?
In the biblical book of Proverbs there are quite a few thoughts on the nature of real friendship. One is found in Prov. 18.24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Imagine that. There is a level of friendship that can rival, or even surpass the relationship between siblings. It would do us well to consider just what the nature of such a friendship looks like.
In this short column we can’t explore this in depth, but here are a few thoughts.
First, a true friend always has the other person’s best interests in mind. That means when your friend’s life is leaking in some way, you don’t just turn your head and pretend it isn’t happening. You find a way to address the problem when it is small, with a sense of true compassion and help rather than criticism.
A true friend is also going to be a great defense attorney when the situation calls for defending another’s honor. Ethical friendship demands we think the best of our friends when gossip and innuendo start casting aspersions on their character. And if there are real problems, we address them to our friend and never engage in the gossip ourselves.
Ethical friendship also means honesty in every area. We speak the truth, expect to hear the truth, and act with integrity toward one another. Nothing will cause the friendship to wither faster than deceit.
Friendship that binds hearts together, even in stressful times, is also known for its sacrificial service and generosity. Perhaps the greatest demonstration of friendship is the willingness to give to, and serve another person, at great personal expense.
These simple thoughts only scratch the surface of what real ethical friendship looks like, but it can start us thinking. My hope is that you have friends like this, but even more important is the necessity to be a friend like this.
The idea of friendship is as old as humanity itself. It is seen in the biblical call to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and is exemplified in the fact that Jesus is said to have laid down his life for his friends.
As our society continues moving down the path of selfishness, with all its divisive consequences, may we recover the beauty, strength and nobility of having and being good friends.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.