For some people, how many Facebook “friends” they have seems to be a status symbol—or a competition! But how many friends do most people really have?
Born for adversity
A recent study conducted by Nivea found that the average Briton has only three true friends through the course of life. It may be a few more or less, but these are friends with whom we are in fairly constant contact throughout a lifetime. There are other people we think of as friends, but we often lose track of one another over time and distance.
The study found that of these three friends, one is typically a best friend from childhood, another a close friend who is related and, finally, a friend made during higher education or at work (“Average Briton ‘Has Only Three True Friends,'” Telegraph.co.uk, April 15, 2010). These are the people who stick with us through thick and thin. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” goes the proverb (Proverbs 17:17).
Some friends are like family, and some family members are dear friends. This kind of friendship sees us through pain and joy. It can be augmented by connecting on social networking sites, but true friendship also needs a dose of face-to-face contact, a helping hand during times of need, frequent phone calls to catch up and chat, and a letter or card now and then.
The best friends
To that list of three close friends should be added two more. These friends are shared by many and are worth more than all other human friends in the world!
Is it too bold to think of God the Father and Jesus Christ as friends? No—because God extended the hand of friendship first.
God has many friends, but perhaps most striking among them is Abraham. Known as the friend of God, he kept God’s commandments and believed God would be true to His Word when He said, in effect, “Move and I will bless you” (see James 2:23; Genesis 12:1-3). This kind of trust is an important aspect of friendship. Fair-weather friends who abandon you leave a lot of hurt in their wake.
Jesus Christ extends His friendship to His followers. This friendship has a condition attached: obedience. But the generosity that rewards obedience is phenomenal—the regard of the Supreme Being and, eventually, eternal life.
You can pick your friends
Family members are decided from birth, but friends are chosen throughout life. Choosing wisely is important because some people inspire us to do better and improve, while others drag us down. The book of Proverbs warns against choosing the wrong type of companions: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (1:10).
Being a friend to those in need is a good thing, but trying to reform those who continuously and willingly sin will likely pull us down.
Friendly tips for Facebook
Using Facebook to share news, issue invitations, catch up with friends and post modest photos is a positive way to keep in touch. But sharing too much personal information, spreading gossip and rumors, or venting about other people on such sites is not good. Never say anything online that couldn’t or shouldn’t be said to someone in a face-to-face conversation.
It is vital to treat others only as we would wish to be treated ourselves (Matthew 7:12).
Keep in touch
Friendships are a precious gift from God. God the Father and Jesus Christ extend friendship to us. True, close, lifelong friends are few and far between, but throughout our lives we can make friends.
Growing friendships is like growing plants. If you don’t feed and water the plants, they die. If we don’t feed a friendship with frequent communication and outgoing concern and water it with some face time once in a while, we can lose a friend.
Wildly adding Facebook contacts isn’t the way to make real friends, but social networking sites, properly used, can help us cultivate healthy friendships.
» Amanda Stiver works as a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio. Reprint with permission from Vertical Thought Magazine, published by United Church of God.