We often find ourselves in situations where there is no “black and white, clear cut answer” as to what we should do—we have to decide between good and better, or between bad and worse. We need wisdom to help us navigate through this murkiness. Today I want to talk about a kind of relationship that you will never feel any pressure to make a priority, but Solomon highlights it over and over as being foundational to becoming a wise person. Unless we make a conscious choice, these critical relationships will get squeezed out of our lives. Proverbs cautions us that if we want to be wise, we need to be careful about who we surround ourselves with. We need to choose our friends very carefully, so the question is, “Who have you surrounded yourself with?”
The truth found in Proverbs 13:20 is either working for you or against you in your life today. If you surround yourself with wise people, if you allow yourself to be influenced by those who are wise, if you imitate their wise choices, then you will benefit from that. But if you are a companion of fools—even if you are not aware of it—you are being influenced by them, and it will not go well for you. It’s not even a behavior thing—you don’t even have to actively be doing anything wrong—it’s a proximity thing. If we let them too close for too long, we will get burned. When we feel accepted by someone, we naturally drop our guard, and we become vulnerable to their influence—good or bad.
But some of us have decided that we want to go down a different path—a wiser path. And to change the trajectory of life we need to limit the amount of time that we spend with certain old friends—as hard as that may be. So we ask: “Well how do I do that? I have known them so long! How do I begin to distance myself from the foolish person in my life?” Proverbs 13:20 says that the key is degrees of closeness and limiting the influence they have on your life. Wise people should be on the inside— where they have greater influence. Foolish people should be on the periphery—where their influence is minimized.
In the age of Facebook, the bar is pretty low on who qualifies as a “friend”. What we really need is a few—even one—who will really stick closer to us than our own flesh and blood (Proverbs 18:24). These are not mere acquaintances, who say, “Call me if you need anything.” We need wise friends who are emotionally connected to us in costly ways; a fool will never do that. They are far too selfish; friendships are just transactional: we are “committed” as long as we receive back at least as much as we give.
A true friend will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear (Proverbs 27:6). An acquaintance will just flatter you. Why? Because they don’t really care about you. They only care about what they can get from you. A true friend will confront you when they see you veering off the wisdom path. Who are those people who do this for you? For whom do you do this?
Are you surrounding yourself with foolish people? Who is it for you that needs to be removed from your inner circle? Who are those wise friends who are in your life? What are their names? There probably aren’t that many of them, are there? Thank them on a regular basis for sticking closer than a brother because these kind of friends are rare. And Solomon says these kinds of friends will lead us to wisdom.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
Are you surrounding yourself with foolish people or wise people?
- Who needs to be removed from your inner circle?
- Who needs to be given access to your inner circle?
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)