Friends Don't Let Friends...

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On a recent trip, the slogan on a T-shirt caught my eye. It read, "Friends don't let friends eat farmed salmon." The phrase grabbed my attention. I, too, prefer to eat wild salmon, and I think it tastes even better when I catch the fish myself. But it wasn't just the fishing connection that hooked me. It was also the concept of friends looking out for each other. Perhaps you've also seen or heard the phrase about friends not letting friends do bad things. I've heard "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" and "Friends don't let friends do drugs." Perhaps you can add to the list. The underlying concept behind these phrases is that each of us has the responsibility of helping our friends keep out of trouble and harm—to stay on the right path and avoid the wrong. But telling friends that they are doing something detrimental is hard to do, and many believe they should support their friends no matter what their choices. Furthermore, most people don't want friends who will tell them that they are doing something they shouldn't be. According to motivational speaker Andy Andrews, "When asked what they want in a friend, 80 percent answer, 'Someone who accepts you as you are'" (The Seven Decisions video). Most simply want friends who will support them no matter what they do. What all of this means is that slogans about friends not letting friends do something they shouldn't are asking people to go against the majority opinion. So which is it? What should a real friend do? Rather than looking to human opinions, let's see what the Bible says about friends correcting friends. God's Word tells us that friends are supposed to support each other. As Job explained, "Those who withhold kindness from a friend forsake the fear of the Almighty" (Job 6:14 Job 6:14To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend; but he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
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, New Revised Standard Version). Almost everyone can agree that being kind to a friend is important, but how do we do this? Two mistaken ideas Consider those who believe they should always agree with friends whether the friends are right or wrong. These people call this being loyal. But in reality, it is misplaced loyalty. Think about it. Do you want a friend who is loyal to you or loyal to the truth? Compromising the truth isn't loyalty; it's deception—even if it is supposedly done out of kindness. Real friends will be loyal first to the truth and secondarily to us. In following this order, our friends can help us likewise be loyal to the truth. Mistaken loyalty is one wrong idea regarding friendships. Abandonment is another. In order to keep from agreeing with a friend who is wrong, some abandon their friends whenever a problem arises. They'd seemingly rather disappear or pretend not to notice than to deal with what is really happening. These people are what some call fair-weather friends. They are willing to be our friends as long as everything goes well. But when the weather changes—that is, when a problem arises—they change as fast as the weather. Yet Proverbs 17:17 Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
American King James Version×
says, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Real friends don't desert when things get tough. This doesn't mean we shouldn't ever end a friendship—because sometimes we should if a friend purposefully lives contrary to God's values. What it does mean is that we shouldn't end a friendship just because a friend with godly standards occasionally has a problem. Under these circumstances, real friends help each other get through and solve their problems. These are all-weather friends—the kind that will stick with us throughout our lives. The hardest talk One of the most difficult aspects of being a true friend is telling someone that he or she is doing something wrong. Yet if we are honest with ourselves, we know that occasionally we are in need of a little guidance and encouragement to make good decisions. We don't inherently have all the answers to life's questions (Jeremiah 10:23 Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.
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). And while we can always pray and study God's Word for guidance, it is also helpful to have a friend who will tell us when we're about to make a mistake. Affirming the value of correction from a friend, Proverbs 27:6 Proverbs 27:6Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
American King James Version×
says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Real friends are people who will always tell us the truth—even when it is unpleasant to do so. Real friends give us much-needed reality checks—reference points that can help us know what is true and what isn't. It is this measure of friendship that identifies those who truly care for us. These are the kinds of friends who are always there for us—even when we run into adversity. How to tell a friend Assuming you need to tell a friend that he or she is making a mistake—something that will surely happen sooner or later—what can you do to make the message easier to deliver and easier for your friend to receive? Consider following these biblical principles: • Ask God for wisdom. Knowing when to approach your friend and how to best do so requires wisdom. James 1:5 James 1:5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him.
American King James Version×
says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." • Use a normal tone of voice. Proverbs 15:1 Proverbs 15:1A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
American King James Version×
says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Don't raise your voice as people typically do in an argument or confrontation. Use the same tone of voice that you do in normal conversation. • Be kind. Remember that you're telling your friend about his or her problem because you care. Friends love each other even when they are relaying unpleasant information (Proverbs 17:17 Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
American King James Version×
). Be truthful regarding what needs to be said, but don't add to your friend's pain unnecessarily. • Encourage a godly change. Most people respond to positive encouragement. Affirm the good character your friend normally displays. Tell your friend that you know this problem is out of character for him or her. Then suggest some better courses of action in a humble, respectful way (Galatians 6:1 Galatians 6:1Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.
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). • Offer to help. Finally, show that you are a true friend by offering to help him or her change and go in a better direction (Romans 15:1 Romans 15:1We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
American King James Version×
). Let's all be true, all-weather friends whether we're giving or receiving correction. Remember: "True friends don't let friends . . ." VT

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