Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 17:17
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity"
One of the rules of deep friendship is you have to be positive about your friends. Of course, your friends have flaws. Of course, your friends have weaknesses and areas of non-strength. But they count you as their friend because you overlook those areas and focus on their strengths and positive contributions. You must want them to succeed. You must care about them and seek to meet their needs, pursue them, or please them. This is a significant part of what friendship is. Those who are willing to let you love them like this consider you a friend. Those who do this to you are your friend. It is possible to have one-way friendships and to have those who want to be your friend, but you are unwilling to let them meet your needs so they drop away as friends.
Friendship has rules. I am amazed at the number of people who want to have lots of friends, but they want to also retain the ability to criticize these important people in their life – either openly or behind their back. If you engage in focusing on the weaknesses, mistakes, or foibles of a person, they will quickly move you out of friend category. They may be stuck with you as relative, workmate, or even spouse or child but they will not be friends with you because you violate the basic rules of friendship. Remember, everyone has this rule for their friends: “My friends think I am wonderful and focus on what I do well.”
There are false friendships in which people just use one another for a period of time. These people never make the conscious decision to overlook the weaknesses of the other person. Be careful of this type of person who acts like your friend because you have something that will benefit or bless their life; but they continue to criticize, complain, and slander you. This person will be done with you when your benefit has been used up.
Solomon says that one of the rules of friendship is that a true friend continues to meet needs in the other person. The true friend continues to pursue the soul of the other person. The true friend continues to please the other person even though there may not be any benefit to them for doing so.
One of the truths of all healthy families is that no matter if you have fights when the chips are down, you can always count on your family. Family shares something that is core. Unfortunately we now live in a day and age where parents are forgetting their children as they pursue their careers. Children are forgetting their parents for friends, fame at school, and success at sports. One of the truths of life is that there will be times when you go through down times. It is during these times that the only people who may still be willing to help you is family. Make sure that you remember to treat your family well on the way up, so that they will be there on the way down. Make sure that as a parent you help your children understand that petty squabbles between brothers and sisters must not ruin the family unity.
I must say on this account that I have many times in my life turned to my sister when I was going through difficult adversity. And she has always been a comfort, counsel, and help in those times. She has been the living incarnation of what Solomon says here about a brother being born for adversity. It is a testament to her character and to the way my parents raised us that she would live out one of the main goals of family. Families pull together when things are coming apart.
Don't just have friends – be a true friend. Meet the needs of your friends. Pursue the soul of your friends. Please your friends. You really do get to select your friends which is not true of family, so follow up your selection of friendship with real and regular love of your friends.
Keep the communication and connection with your family. One never knows when it will be needed. If your family has not been that for you, then make a realistic assessment of how you might be that for them. I realize that there are "families" out there who have been nothing but immoral and oppressive, and sometimes they are not open to the redeeming effect of true love. If that is the case, then be patient and do not throw your pearls before swine but realize that God may ask you to love sacrificially to bring about an end to the bad legacy of your family. A new legacy might begin with you.