The Company You Keep

You’re known by the company you keep.

You’re “guilty by association”.

We’ve probably heard or used these phrases or similar ones. It is true how we spend our time and who we spend it with has a direct impact on our lives.

Friendships usually begin with a common interest or other binding factor. We’re drawn to those we feel are like minded. I’ve even referred to some as kindred spirits. It’s comforting to find a connection with another person or group. Deep down we all want to belong. No one really wants to be alone all the time. Even those of us who are content with our solitude want the option to be social. We want to know there’s at least one person out there who cares for us.

Sometimes our family can be our closest friends. Other times, they may not be. In fact, we may long to have close friends to help us deal with our family struggles.

Friendships can help us build, keep us stuck, or even wreck us.

At different seasons of my life, I’ve been close with people who weren’t necessarily bad, but their influence in my life wasn’t the best for me. I was initially drawn to them because we had something in common. I felt so comfortable around them. The problem was that what we shared weren’t all healthy traits. If we discovered we both enjoyed cocktails a bit too much or going out and wasting money, sometimes that became our focus. If one of us was going through a difficult time, the other one might feed into the chaos, rather than trying to diffuse it. We weren’t bringing out the best in each other anymore.

Your close circle can make or break you.

I know that seems dramatic to write, but it is true. The more time you spend around someone, the more you tend to rub off on each other. Human nature being fallen as it is, if we’re not careful, we won’t bring out the best or elevate each other. What started as a promising relationship may just end up at the lowest common denominator. Neither one is better for it; one or both may actually be worse off than before.

If you have goals and aspirations, your circle should reflect it.

In some ways, the older you get, the easier it is to recognize when a relationship is coming to an end. By the same token, I also have close friends I’ve had in my life for decades.

Your friendships should not only reflect where you are in your life, but also where you want to be. This doesn’t mean if you want to pursue a certain career you can only be friends with someone who wants the same career. Of course not. But what it does mean is you need to connect with people who are motivated. You want to surround yourself with those who are working toward something. Whatever their something may be. You won’t get motivation hanging around lazy people.

If you’re looking to improve your finances, you may not want to be close with people who can’t control their spending. I’m not saying you can’t be friends with them, but you may need to limit your exposure to them to make sure the relationship doesn’t hold you back or keep you stuck where you don’t want to be.

Yes, we are all individuals and capable of free will. But we are not immune to influence.

You need to periodically take inventory of your close bonds with other people: be they family, friends, or friends who are like family. Are you better off being in those relationships? Are they balanced?

Sometimes we stay connected to people because we don’t know how to leave.

We’ve known them for so long, or they were so important to us during a difficult time in our lives, or any other reason. But assessing our connections to others is critical for growth and maturity. Learning when to stay or go, how much time to dedicate, knowing its value, these are all keys.

Friendship matters. I know this because the Lord took time to discuss it at length in the scriptures. You know I brought receipts. I’m going to share several verses here, but there are so many more. I encourage you to explore them all on your own. (Any and all bible verses, unless otherwise are indicated, are from NIV, emphasis added.)

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

This verse may be where the expression being guilty by association originated. Even if you aren’t yet compromised in some area, if you spend time with others who are known to be, you’ll get the same reputation. You may not even deserve the label, but you’ll probably get it anyway.

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Proverbs 22:24-25)

I can absolutely tell you from personal experience this is true. I tend to be loud and confrontational. (I know you’re shocked.) If I’m around someone who also tends to be that way, we may find ourselves in a bad situation. Without someone to bring down the temperature, it can get pretty ugly.

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Proverbs 12:26)

When we’re younger, we can make friends easily. But with age should come wisdom and discernment. I now believe in being friendly with many but only friends with a few.

What are the qualities of a good friend?

I’m so glad you asked. Because God is all about balance, He doesn’t just tell us what to avoid. He gives direction on what to look for as well. And not just what to look for in others but what we should develop within ourselves. Check these verses out.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV)

Who are your people who’ve seen you at your worst and still stuck around? Who can you call when it all goes horribly wrong? Who is willing to stand by your side through it all? Are you willing to be there for another? Will you stand with someone when they need you?

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. (Proverbs 27:9)

Who can you lean on for wise counsel? Are you quick to listen and slow to speak when someone in your life needs a friend?

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

This verse is speaking of Jesus. He is a friend like no other. If you’re reading this and wonder who cares about you, let me tell you HE DOES! He is my best friend. He can be yours too. He will never leave you or forsake you.

He is also the example of a true friend. Check this out.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

Will you accept His friendship today? Will you open your heart and let Him come into your life? It’s a decision I made over 25 years ago. I’ve never regretted it. It doesn’t mean my life hasn’t had struggles. But I know He’s with me. Even when everyone I love wasn’t there, He was.

My friends are wonderful. I am blessed. But we are all fallible. We will disappoint one another at some point. The only One who has never disappointed me is the Lord.

I look to how He treated His friends as my example. I fall short every day, but I keep trying. Because He is the constant in my close circle, I can do all things as He strengthens me. He can be all that and more for you too.

Check your circle. It’s not complete until He’s at the center of it.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,


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