One of the underlying goals of Groups is that you would meet people you would clique with and thus open the door for further friendship outside the group environment. Groups are a great place to meet new friends.
But your group is not a failure if you finish the session together and you emerge on the other side without a new friendship. The goal is that you have a new social space, where friendship can be established, but not necessarily that every person finds a life long friend. Groups are a safe place to meet new people, grow in the faith, make friends and have fun.
Proverbs 12:26 (NIV)
26 A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
So why do some people find friends in any crowd and others emerge on the other side still lonely? It has to do with personality, it has to do with posture, and it has to do with practice.
We all have different personality traits that either give us a leg up or hinder us in the friendship category.
- Some are the life of the party (easy for them)
- Some are analytical and pessimistic by nature (hard for them)
- Some are dominant (easy to make and lose friends for them)
- Some are followers (hard for them because they stick at a distance behind the group)
Our personalities make us unique, one of a kind and valuable in various ways of contribution to any community. But with each strength there is a weakness.
We can overcome our personality weaknesses to develop friendships if we recognize our tendencies and make purposeful steps to engage differently. It takes discipline, but it’s possible
The key is that you are comfortable being you. It’s not that you are changing who you are, just changing the behavioral traits that would keep others from seeing your value if engaged in their lives.
Honestly life would be boring if everyone had the same personality.
- What would the A-team be like with one personality
- What would Oceans 11 be like
- Without a wimpy kid there would be no need for a Diary
- Or the Peanuts…how boring would it be to have all Charlie Browns in our great pumpkin patch of life
Personality adds spice to life, but it comes with it’s challenges…that is for sure.
This is an add-on really to personality. Because different personalities tend to carry themselves differently. But Posture has to do with you willingness to be open to others.
Take for example a room with 10 to 20 people in it. No one has to instigate the direction of conversation, people tend to just begin to socialize. About 10 minutes into the socializing you can do a snapshot of the room and you will find people postured differently.
The guys will be in the kitchen engaged in a story of some sort. Women will be sitting down leaning in having a touching conversation. But there will be someone listening into one of the conversations from a distance. They may be feet away and just have a smile on their face. They might laugh at the jokes, but they are postured not to contribute or engage.
There could be many reasons for their posture, trust, confidence, personality, fear of the unknown. But the fact is, without an engager in the room, who is aware of those who need assistance to enter into the social connections these people will forever be on the outside of the loop. They are not apposed to friendship, they just need someone to assist in the process. Groups are amazing environments for this to take place.
You have heard it said many times, practice makes perfect. And here at Open Life we hold this dear. And the group format with three sessions a year is perfectly designed to help you practice engaging with other people and eventually after a few group sessions it is inevitable that you will find someone you could develop a new friendship with.
On Monday at the Group that meets at our home we went around the room sharing two things we enjoy or do for fun. Various ones in the circle shared that they enjoy strategy games. Now Dana and I love to play a good strategy game, where you have to think. We still play games for mindless idiots like Uno, Skip-bo, and luck-of-the-draw type games, but there is just something about a game that involves decision making and process not to mention hard core bartering, lying and trading.
Immediately we knew that we could invite any of those who mentioned gaming over to the house to play one of our favorite games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride just to name a few.
The only way we know to even catch that clue is because of practice. Over the course of many years of ministry we know that we are not going to be friends with everyone. Reality is there are some people that we have nothing in common with, our interests are completely polarized and it would be a waste of time to attempt friendship on a deeper level with them. But through time and practice we instinctively know that we will connect with this person or that person.
There is still crazy high value on hanging out and enjoying social spaces with someone who is totally unlike us, but outside of the social we probably don’t become best friends. That is not cliquish, mean or cold…it is the way we are shaped and created. We don’t have to manufacture friendship! I my have you as a friend on facebook, but easy does it with the expectations of that friendship.
It’s good to learn how to navigate the elements of personality, posture and practice in order to find your way to the table of friendship. It’s good to navigate those waters cautiously as our text today leads us to unpack a bit, but once you find yourself going from the social space to the relational space where friendship is developed what are the attributes that make for a valuable friend? This is where I want to land today, and dig a little deeper for all of us to discover.
Our society has become increasingly lonely due to it’s misdiagnosis of friendship. We are all guilty of malpractice in this area due to our embrace of false definitions of friendship.
- You don’t become my friend by sending me a request
- Just because I follow you, doesn’t mean I am your friend. Or that you even know me
- I think some people on facebook actually use the suggested friend request function!
- Just a matter of years ago, only your friends would have your cell phone number, now it seems everyone can call your cell
- An expression of address. Friends lend me your ears…I may not truly be this dudes friend!
See how easy it is to let friendship just be an expression, thus losing our drive to develop true deep friendships that open the door for so much in our lives. We were designed to do this thing called life together. Life is a team sport.
Let me rattle off some truths from scripture about friendship. Catch the realities within these….they are all listed on the base of your notes.
Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 27:6 (NIV)
6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)
24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Job 6:14 (NIV)
14 “A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
Job 16:20 (NIV)
20 My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;
Job 42:10 (NIV)
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.
Proverbs 17:9 (NIV)
9 He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
Proverbs 22:11 (NIV)
11 He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.
Proverbs 22:24 (NIV)
24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered,
Proverbs 27:9 (NIV)
9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 (NIV)
10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
In the parable of the lost sheep…the Shepherd comes back with the one over his shoulder and goes home and it says in Luke 15:6 (NIV)
6 …Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
John 15:13-15 (NIV)
13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
We can discover so many amazing things from scripture about relationships and specifically friendship here. Let me break all these down into three very key ingredients to foster healthy friendship. This is transferable as well to create a healthy organization, work environment, volunteer organization, small group, church or fortune 500 company.
The three C’s.
a. Friends rejoice with each other
b. Friends celebrate things in each other’s lives.
i. It’s kinda crazy that good news is bad news.
ii. Nothing gets people talking like a teacher messing up, untimely death or an unfaithful spouse or even a racist police officer caught on film.
iii. If we are not careful we will only mourn with people and miss the rejoicing moments
c. How well do you celebrate with others during their victories?
a. Do you stick? Because friends stick together.
b. Are you close? Because friends stick close…not at a safe distance. A true friend should be all in and therefore if you go down we all go down together!
i. Friendship in that way is very risky and dangerous, but worth the price of failure!
c. When you are connected an offense will not separate you, you look over it to the trust and understanding you have…in fact the wounds created by friends somehow deepen the bond between you.
i. The connection of friendship opens the door for true deep accountability.
1. Accountability can be manufactured in a small group environment where there are various people who are truly not friends, but you never get to the deeper things that really are the source of issues
ii. When you are close enough with your friends, you can speak things they don’t want to hear in order to help their blind spots in life.
a. If you have a friend who only takes and never gives back it is draining. They eventually bankrupt the account and go to make a withdrawal only to find that their balance is ZERO.
b. We need to make deposits in the lives of those we befriend.
i. We should pray for our friends.
1. In fact we should intercede…which means to always have on your heart in prayer until the end comes.
ii. We should speak life to our friends
iii. As we just discovered…we should confront every now and then
iv. And, we should lift those up who are down
1. There is no need to hide when you are down to your friends.
2. If you hide it how can they help you up?
c. How are you contributing to the friendships in your life?
i. Maybe that is a key for you to look at in your own life. Are you lacking in three C type friendships in your life? If so, begin to lead by example. Be a Three C Friend.
ii. There are many people who look for friendships because they are needing something vs. they are looking for a way to give something. Keep your focus on what you can contribute and you will become friends with the most influential people in your world.
d. Many people will try and contribute to your life who have yet to cross the line of friendship with you.
i. Ever get odd advice to a Well post on Facebook?
ii. As a blogger and frequent user of Twitter I get feedback that is very off the wall at times.
1. Some people avoid engaging in Social Media due to the neutrality of it all, but if used correctly it can deepen the connection you have face to face with people.
2. Leading author and blogger Seth Godin said, “I have better relationships with people I can see online because their face and name are attached to what they are saying.”
Well, we can grow through our personality, posture and practice in the area of friendship discovery, and we can go deeper in friendship through celebration, connection and contribution. All of these are wrapped up in the truths and many additional illustrations of life and within scripture.
God truly wants us to have Three C friendships in our lives. Two challenges to help you apply this to your life this week.
1. In any social space you find yourself in this week, classroom or cafeteria at school, break room, commuter train, starbucks, gym or your Group…find someone who needs an engager to assist them in their posture. Be the one who initiates their connection with others.
a. This will not be easy for some of you, but simply walk up and start the social space around them. Introduce yourself, and begin a dialogue that eventually pulls others in.
b. Be the connector this week.
2. Find a time within the next two weeks where you can go out or have someone over; invite someone from your Group to hang out. Be specific…don’t open it to all, invite someone personally.
a. If you were not able to connect to a group this fall session due to your schedule, invite someone from your work or other social spaces that you have something in common with but have yet to initiate beyond that space.
b. Again…being a connector!