What do you like to do with friends?
Hang out, see movies? Play Ultimate Frisbee or Quidditch? Chat over coffee, go hiking, get your nails done?
Me, I like to talk over tea or lunch, walk groomed city trails or rural roads.
The reason I’m wondering, though, is that the other day I asked someone I had known for only three hours (over two meetings) what he liked to do with local friends, and in response he told me all about his typical day spent alone.
Translation: He has no friends. Not nearby, in any case, no matter how many he may fly across the country to visit once a year.
An adult without friends is an island cut off from other civilizations. Sure, island-states rarely get invaded, and they don’t need to secure their boundaries with high fences or mined approaches, but the other side of the coin is their isolation and lack of growth. It’s no accident that the Japanese tend to be xenophobic on their own turf, and that the Chinese temporary workers their farmers import for agricultural work were accepted only after intense pressure. Yes, Japan has a great deal to fear from China, which is larger, contains many more millions of people, and possesses a long memory of Japanese atrocities during World War II. Yet xenophobia, the fear of the stranger, the one who is different, is behind their wariness.
Without good, solid, smart friends, how do you know if you’re on the right route? How do you know if you’re not being hijacked by error if you don’t run it by your friends?
Notice I said “smart” friends. If your friends cream-puff you, they’re not smart, and they’re not very friendly, either. Good friends practice compassionate tough love. They’re concerned about your weight gain. They worry about your smoking. They hate to hear you talk rudely to your spouse, or abusively about him/her. They’re appalled at the licentious way you act when you’ve had a couple of drinks.
I’m not a big Bible-quoter, but here are two passages, both from Proverbs, indicating the importance and purpose of friendship: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (19:20), and “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (27:17). Substituting the inclusive “person” for “man”, and these words are as meaningful today as thousands of years ago.
Listen to good, intelligent friends’ advice, so you get smarter and don’t make mistakes, especially the same ones over and over — it was Jesus, after all, who said, “Go, and sin no more”, meaning “Get on with your life and learn from this, don’t keep making the same errors!” – so that you gain wisdom. And healthy friendship sharpens people, it makes them incisive and strong, able to cut through the ridiculous bullshit we’re surrounded by: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, “You deserve a break today”, “Just do it”.
Plus, according to research, good friends keep you healthier, give you a longer life, and even help you regard emotional bumps as less severe.
Good friends can help you become a better person. Having no friends means you stay stuck in no-progress land, thinking you’re growing when all you’re doing is spinning in place.
To grow, get friends. Good friends. Better friends, if the ones in your life are lax.
Make a friend. Be a friend.
Just do it.