Friendship’s Fiends

We both know making friends is hard. If we’re honest, we have an inkling of how to make them, but don’t desire to put forth the effort. To make friends, one must speak with people face to face and be incrementally vulnerable with them. Since we both need and desire good friendships, why is it so hard to make them? Budding friendships today are under assault from the internet, impatience, and the “I”.

Fiend of Internet

Because of the internet, people today are far more social and far less connected than ever before. This online interaction bombards us, keeping us isolated from our physical surroundings. Because of this, people feel more alone than ever before.* 

I learned this at age 13. Back then, I struggled to make friends at yet another new school. I also was bullied. So when I discovered online chat rooms where we pretended to be various made-up characters to represent ourselves, I quickly was hooked. I found affirmation based on my character, not on my looks. If only I had truly believed 1 Samuel 16:7, “…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I would have realized my true friend was Jesus, not those I met online.

Like any addiction, time spent in these chat rooms eroded my healthy in-person relationships. Sadly, my mother was the one hurt the most. I remember when my step-father proposed to her, he ushered my sisters and I to stand next to him. I declined, and as he did so, I reported the live events to the people in the chat. Not only that, but I lied to her. I broke the rules and gave out my cell phone number to a few of these e-friends and started a long-distance relationship with one. 

That’s when Momma called it quits. She made me call and break up with the boy and ground me from electronics for at least a month. Can we stop and give her a round of applause? I did not make it easy on her. She took away my “drug” and my rage spewed hatred. But a miracle occurred during my punishment. Those chat rooms no longer held me captive. 

Social Media and video shorts teach us to be shallow. No one on social media shows all of themselves. Just like I created a character to play in those chat rooms, people create characters of the most perfect versions of themselves. They have time to type out carefully worded replies, and there is a safety of hiding behind a screen. Too many of these fun yet shallow interactions render us empty. 

Fiend of Impatience

The second fiend of friendship is our culture’s impatience. We don’t want to wait for our investments devoted to making a new friend to come through. We want our besties, and we want them immediately. But that’s not how friendships grow. It would be foolish to plant a seed and expect a full tree to have sprouted overnight. But developing deep, lasting friendships is much like growing a garden. You plant the seed by first talking to an acquaintance. You water them diligently by inviting them to your home, giving them small tidbits of information about yourself you don’t feel completely comfortable sharing. You weed the friendship by noting when you’ve hurt them or they’ve hurt you and working through it together. Sometimes you need to prune friendships. This allows you to focus on the one or two which thrive the most. Sooner than you realize, you will have a friend that you can be completely honest with. 

My story with this begins when I moved from Wisconsin to Iowa. I would talk to the people I was around and make acquaintances. I would plant seeds by inviting these friends over or to go have coffee. Increasingly, I watered them by letting them be there for me in my time of need. On multiple occasions, that meant giving me a place to stay. When I would speak with my friends, I would watch their body language to note when I said something that might have been hurtful and then seek reconciliation. Finally, I realized that some of the friends I made, would end up being simply FaceBook friends, while others will always be a part of my life. It took me about four very prayerful years to harvest my besties. In the moment, it dragged on and on, but looking back, the progress I made in that short time is remarkable. Pray and trust God to grow your garden of friendships.

Fiend of the “I”

Now the third fiend against friendship is the most tricky. We have to deal with “I”. I’ve noticed a trend in our culture to view friendships as a way to enjoy your own life and check off a self-care box. If a friendship isn’t benefiting at a given time, it’s cast aside. But these are give-and-take relationships. If you’re putting yourself out there and being vulnerable, asking for help, and initiating conversation, without it being reciprocated, there’s a problem. But, without even thinking about it, I’ve initiated friendships to foster a sense of acceptance and completion to my own life. Good friendships will bring those to you, but desperately throwing your heart at people as a way to beg for affirmation is dangerous and manipulative. 

David and his mighty men had this kind of give-and-take relationship. After David was anointed future king of Israel by Samuel, took down Goliath winning fame, soothed King Saul with his harp, and after his sad parting with Johnathan, David flees from Saul and his assassins. As he’s running hither and yon in the wilderness, he befriends not the pompous and powerful of Israel, but vagabonds, criminals, and outcasts. These ragtag men that join him become his mighty men. 

In 1 Chronicles 11, we’re given a snapshot into the friendship David and these men had. They’re staying in a cave during a Philistine occupation. “And David said longingly, ‘Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!’ Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and took it and brought it to David. But David would not drink it. He poured it out to the Lord and said, ‘Far be it from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”…” (verses 17-18)

These three mighty men hear David wanting familiar water. They’re attentive to their friend. That attentiveness turns to action. Bethlehem is miles away from the cave they’re in and in enemy territory. Goliath had been a Philistine before this adolescent shepherd came and somehow took him down with a sling. The enemies would not have been docile towards the men who supported David. Yet, because of God’s blessing, they are successful and bring David water from his home. These men risked their lives to produce this for David because they cared for him.

In return, David saw the water and the love it represented. Instead of gobbling up the sacrifice of their effort, he poured it out as a sacrifice to the Lord. This elevated their gift and brought these men honor. It was David’s way of repaying them for their kindness.

Friendship does cost us. It costs us time to be there when the other cries. It costs us stress to be able to feel for them. It costs us money to be able to provide for our friends when they need help, but those sacrifices are priceless because they will be reciprocated. 

Jesus, the Perfect Friend

As you’re fighting off these fiends to protect and foster your budding friendships, take heart. Don’t forget you already have a friend in Jesus. The interaction with water between David and his mighty men shows us their friendship. Jesus also uses water to signify his desire to befriend us. In John 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well. He asks her to draw up some water for him to drink. The woman is surprised because she had assumed Jesus hated her because of her race, but then we read Jesus’s words to her in verse 10, “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’” Jesus already sacrificed Himself in order to befriend you. He’s there when you call out, so as you make yourself vulnerable to forming new friendships, rest in knowing Jesus will be there, offering His cup of friendship.

*Stabler, Christine M. “The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health.”, 1 Sept. 2021, 

“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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