What Kind of Friends Do You Want?
1-5. (a) How can friendships add to your enjoyment of life? (b) How would you describe a real friend? (Proverbs 18:24)
HAVING a true friend adds a lot to the joy of living. People who are “loners” and avoid others are rarely, if ever, really happy. What is there about friendship that adds so much to your happiness?
2 Doing something with a friend seems to multiply the enjoyment of that particular experience. Jesus once told of a shepherd who found his lost sheep and of a woman who found her lost coin. Each one called in friends, saying, “Rejoice with me.” (Luke 15:6, 9) Yes, you normally want to share good things with companions, and your delight seems to double as a result. Haven’t you experienced that?
3 On the other hand, when things don’t go well and you feel depressed, a good friend can do a lot to relieve your sadness. Friends can be a real help when trouble threatens. They can warn you of danger and help you to escape it, and can encourage you when the going is hard. You probably can agree with what Proverbs 17:17 says: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.”
4 That scripture emphasizes a quality that strongly marks real friends: Loyalty. Being a friend means more than just acting friendly. A genuine friend is loyal to you and to your best interests. Are your friends like that?
5 Today, most people seem more interested in outdoing their neighbor than in helping him. Even among so-called “friends” there is often a spirit of competition, not of loyalty. Many friendships last only as long as neither person is called on to make some change or to give up some selfish interest for the good of the other. In this competitive world a true friend is not easy to find.
6-8. In what ways did Jonathan and Hushai prove that they were friends of David?
6 A fine Bible example of one who had some really worthwhile friends is seen in David. You may have heard how David, after the defeat of Goliath, an immense enemy warrior, gained a fine friend in Jonathan, the son of King Saul. Jonathan, if he had been jealous, could have hated David as a possible rival for the throne of Israel. Instead, Jonathan recognized that God’s favor was on David, and “Jonathan’s very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1) Jonathan loved him for his courage and faith in Jehovah God. Jonathan himself also must have had a similar devotion to God. There couldn’t be a better foundation for a mutual friendship.
7 You can further read about a later friend of David named Hushai, who was one of David’s close associates during his kingship. The way Hushai risked his life to thwart the traitorous conspiracy of Absalom, one of David’s sons, is a thrilling account to read.—See 2 Samuel 15:10-37; 16:16–17:16.
8 Perhaps you have friends like these. If not, how can you gain them? It will take real effort, but it is certainly worth it.
SEEKING WORTHWHILE FRIENDS
9-13. (a) How can a person gain worthwhile friends? Why is it unwise to try to get friends by giving or sharing material possessions? (b) As shown at Psalm 101:5-7, what kind of persons is it best to avoid as close companions?
9 There is a lot of truth in the saying that ‘the only way to have a friend is to be one.’ Sometimes persons feel it keenly when they are ‘left out’ of things by other young persons whom they may admire. Or they may have had friends only to lose them. They feel very hurt about this. Possibly they do not realize that friendship is a two-way street.
10 So we do well to ask ourselves: What am I doing to be friendly to others? How much sincere and unselfish interest do I take in others, and what do I do to contribute to their happiness and their good? What qualities am I cultivating that would make others feel that they would really like to have me as a friend?
11 The kind of friends you get depends largely on the way you go about trying to find them. Some seek to win friends by spending money on them, or by inviting them to share in the enjoyment of material possessions, such as a stereo set and records or sports equipment. True, this may draw some to you. The Proverbs say, “Many are the friends of the rich person,” and that “everybody is a companion to the man making gifts.” Yes, many people act friendly when a person spends his money freely. But when the money runs out so do the “friends.”—Proverbs 14:20; 19:6.
12 Worthwhile friends cannot be “bought,” either by the use of material possessions, or by flattery or by always giving in to what the other wants. Any friend that can be bought is never worth the price, however much it might be. True friends are attracted by what you are, by your qualities, not by what they can get out of you.
13 So, while it is good to have a friendly disposition toward people, if you want genuine friends you need to be selective about those you choose as close and confidential companions. David was. He says: “Anyone of haughty eyes and of arrogant heart, him I cannot endure. My eyes are upon the faithful ones of the earth, that they may dwell with me. . . . There will dwell inside my house no worker of trickiness.” (Psalm 101:5-7) Why is it so important for young people today to be selective as to close companions?
WHY A GOOD CHOICE IS VITAL
14-16. (a) What effect do a person’s friends have on him? Illustrate. (b) How will a friendship be affected if you tell the other person that you disagree with him?
14 It is a basic principle of social relations that you tend to become like those around you if you associate with them long enough. Your choice of friends tells a lot about what kind of person you are or are likely to become. Your close friends are bound to have a “molding” effect on you.
15 Do you choose friends who are honest and decent, who are considerate, who have respect for God and his Word and who have the courage to do what is right? Or are you attracted by persons who pride themselves on being able to “outsmart” others, and who, in place of genuine courage, take blind risks just to show off? Are they ready to risk sharing in immorality, or to steal or take drugs and then brag that they are ‘getting away with it’? If they try to “hook” you into going along with them in something that can harm you, can they rightly be called “friends”?
16 Remember, if you are a close companion of such persons, you will either have to go along with them or have to disagree with them. To disagree with them will probably end the “friendship.” Why? Because they will look on disagreement as criticism or reproof. Usually such persons like to ridicule others, but they can’t take reproof themselves. Proverbs 9:8 talks about that kind of person and then, in contrast, adds: “Give a reproof to a wise person and he will love you.” Real friends can talk frankly to each other and help each other to improve or to correct themselves where needed. When you have a really good companion who thinks straight and talks straight, you have a treasure beyond price. True friends are like diamonds—precious but rare. In sad contrast, false friends are like common stones—found everywhere.
17-19. (a) If you were to be a close companion of someone who did not really believe in God or the Bible, how would you be affected? (Proverbs 11:9; Genesis 34:1, 2) (b) If you really want to help such a person, what is the best way to do it?
17 Many young people today, because of having no faith in a personal Creator or in his Word, take the attitude of “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” That was the way men of ancient times felt who were sentenced to fight wild beasts in the arena. They had no faith in Jehovah God and his power to give life again to those faithful to him. As a young person, you are really just getting started in life. So, do you want to adopt the attitude those condemned prisoners had toward life? After describing that viewpoint of just ‘living for today,’ the apostle Paul went on to say: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:32, 33) Think about the truthfulness of that. If you seek close companionship with persons who think only of the present, you can be sure they will ruin your hopes and efforts toward gaining a lasting happy future.
18 Sometimes a young person may say that he or she associates with another of questionable ways and reputation so as to help that one. To want to help others is a fine thing. But if you go along with them in their selfish pleasures, how much help are you giving them? For example, if you saw a child in a mud puddle, would you take some soap out into the puddle and try to clean the child with it? You would only get yourself dirty as a result. You would first have to try to encourage the child to come out of the mud puddle before you could hope to do anything about cleaning him up at close range.
19 Actually, to accept a person with bad habits as a close associate will often have a bad effect on that person (as well as on yourself). Why? Because it may encourage him to keep on in the same way, feeling that he can always rely on your backing him up. Wouldn’t it be of far greater help to limit your association to times when you can really aid the person by pointing out good counsel and by inviting him to accompany you to places where that counsel is explained?
THE MOST IMPORTANT FRIENDS
20. How, by our choice of friends, might we actually make ourselves enemies of God?
20 Above all, you should think seriously as to how association with persons of questionable habits may affect your relationship with God and his Son. At James 4:4 this truth is stated: ‘Whoever wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.’ That principle can apply to our relationship with any one person in the world just the same as to our relationship with the world as a whole. If we approve improper ways in someone or prefer that one’s companionship to that of young persons who really want to please God, then do we not show ourselves to be ‘friends of the world’?
21-23. (a) What benefits come to a person who really has God and Christ as his friends? (Romans 8:35, 38, 39) (b) How can we show that we really want them as our friends?
21 If you really want happiness now and in the future, by all means learn to prize the friendship of God and his Son. For thousands of years now God has been demonstrating his friendship toward those who love righteousness, developing his grand purposes to bring them everlasting life in really happy conditions. When he was on earth, God’s Son proved his loyal love for right-hearted persons. He told his disciples: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends. You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.”—John 15:13, 14.
22 Unlike many who may pretend to be your friends, Jehovah God and his Son will not give up on you or abandon you because you run into difficulties. If you put your trust in them you will find that during times of trouble their help and support will really be with you.
23 Do you really appreciate and desire these great Friends? Then show it by seeking loyal companions who accept and will live up to the obligation the apostle John wrote about when he said: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Through thick and thin, such companions will prove to be the kind of friends worth having.
[Blurb on page 61]
To have friends, you need to be a friend.
[Picture on page 63]
True friends are like diamonds