“But, dear brothers, I beg you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won’t be splits in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” (I Cor. 1:10)
“Love forgets mistakes, nagging about them parts the best of friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)
“The wicked enjoy fellowship with others who are wicked; liars enjoy liars” (Proverbs 17:8).
How we handle friendship relationships (or any other relationships) determines much in terms of whether the relationships are successful, enjoyable, and long-lasting, or whether they wither and die, or, worse, dissolve in conflict and hard feelings. Obviously, as the above words of Paul indicate, Jesus wants us to get along and dwell together in harmony.
A list of “no-no” behaviors which damage or outright destroy relationships would be incredibly lengthy. So, as an aid to organizing my discussion, I’m thinking of three general positive concepts, or principles, which are central in building and maintaining harmonious relationships These concepts are respect, consideration, and integrity. Behavioral violations in these three areas are inevitably harmful and destructive.
We need to have respect for our friends, which, I feel, is very close to showing love to them. We violate respect for a friend’s time by showing up unannounced or arriving late repeatedly, by putting pressure on them to do things they are not interested in, or by making plans and then not showing up. We violate respect for a friend’s values and life style by engaging in behaviors in front of him or her which are obnoxious to the friend, for example, by using vulgar language and talking about vulgar topic, by drinking alcoholic beverage on and on while visiting with a “teetotaler,” or by “putting down” standards which are important to the friend. We violate respect for a friend’s personhood by being overbearing and demanding, and by insisting on our own way all the time, while brushing aside the friend’s ideas. Moreover, we should not treat a friend in ways which make him or her feel at the bottom of our priority list.
All the above negative behaviors are inconsiderate as well as being disrespectful. Also, it is inconsiderate to be repeatedly competitive and argumentative. For example, don’t we get tired of folks who always have to be the “right ones” or the “better ones,” or the “top dogs?” It is inconsiderate to want all our own needs met, while being reluctant to even pay attention to a friend’s legitimate needs. It is inconsiderate to omit calling a friend back when we know we should. It is inconsiderate to be “off in our own world” too much, and not have part of our world include the friend, in a proper place. It is inconsiderate to be constantly on the same topic, such as constantly talking about health problems, or gossiping about others and running them down, or talking sports, or talking religion, or whatever, especially if the friend is not that enthusiastic about our meta-topic. We all need variety and rest from “the same old thing.” It is very unpleasant to be with a chronic complainer or whiner – the “poor me” syndrome. The “chip on the shoulder” angry ones also become exasperating. It is inconsiderate to disallow the relationship rest from intensity. We all need rest from having to focus. Even infants will turn their faces away from moms if the moms insist on interacting too much! The maturing of friendships takes a long time. We need to give enough time, and not rush too much. Neither should we put inordinately long spaces between contacting our friend, or the friend may believe we are disinterested. Being considerate means not saying hurtful things, but accenting the positive and being kind. It mans using good judgment, with the friend’s well-being in mind.
Points of tension or disagreement should be sensitively and gently handled. Don’t go around in a “snit” when the friend doesn’t even know what you are unhappy about. Mistakes and bad judgment need to be forgiven. We sure aren’t perfect yet!
Lastly, being straight-forward with our friends is incredibly important. Nobody likes to be around friends who play some manipulative game or another. Integrity is the big concept here. Integrity means being whole and being complete – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. It means being entirely honest in all that we do and say. It means telling the truth, and not “flipping off” a “white lie” to cover up something or to avoid some perceived tension coming up. Usually, story-tellers end up eventually giving themselves away as others become aware of things that don’t match. Integrity means keeping confidences. It means returning items borrowed in a reasonable length of time. It means following through with honor and dignity. It means we can be trusted because we are trustworthy.
Basically, being a good friend means treating the friend like we would like to be treated – The Golden Rule. Lack of love, in the form of sins of all sorts, hurts friendships as well as it hurts everything else. Staying away from sin, in the form of any inconsiderateness or dishonesty, makes for better friendships, and also helps us practice being more like Jesus. The converse also seems to be true. The more we are truly like Jesus, the better friends we can be!!
Dr. Joyce of firstname.lastname@example.org