You need friends! And we aren’t talking Facebook

A friend is someone who helps you up when you’re down, and if they can’t, they lay down beside you and listen. ~Winnie The Pooh

You need friends. Everyone needs friends.

No, not some namby-pamby Facebook friends, not some drinking buddies and not some friends who’ll go with you to shop ’til you drop.

I’m talking friends, real friends. The kind of friends you probably don’t have a lot of. The kind of friends who would take a bullet for you, who will be there in thick and thin, and who know the real you and still hang around.

Today more than ever, it’s hard to find good friends. Heck, it’s hard to be a good friend! The world we live in moves at such a fast pace. No one has people over for dinner anymore to just visit. No one reaches out to say “I need help”. When’s the last time you sat down with a close friend to talk about hopes and dreams or listen as they told you about their inner-most fears, failures or frustrations?

You need friends. Real, down-to-earth friends who will keep you honest, accountable and challenge and encourage you. You know, the kind of friend who will tell you the truth and you won’t throw them out!

As you may know, I’ve entered a new role as a chaplain recently and I encounter people every day who are downtrodden and distraught. After a few weeks — it’s a small sample to be sure — but there is a common thread. What I’m finding is that many people do not have a close friend in which they can (or will) confide. No one to turn to who they can tell their innermost concerns, fears or feelings. So they reach out to me, or someone else who will listen and understand them.

That’s not only sad, it can also be perilous, if not dangerous. No one should go through life alone with their daily struggles and challenges bottled up inside.

Life happens! You need friends. Again, not the surface pansy who’s ready to walk away at “I need to talk to someone.” Someone who will stop what they’re doing (really stop!), cancel an appointment, put dinner on hold and park themselves to listen to you. As long as you need.

Winnie the Pooh had it right, but G. Randolf was spot on as well: “Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget.

Yes, of course, you need people you can play cards with or shop with or play golf with or go fishing or go to the mall together. They are important and should be a vital part of your life.

But when it comes down to it, you need an inner circle of friends who can cry with you (yes, guys, you too), celebrate you (and vice versa) and break it down with you when things get tough. You need mountaintop friends, valley friends and in-between friends.

Remember, you are becoming like the five people you spend the most time with.

Jesus had 12 friends. One was a traitor and three comprised his inner circle, the three He spent the most time with. Those were the three — Peter, James and John — with whom He shared his heart, the three who were there for the most difficult times and the three who saw the struggles and most of the victories firsthand.

Everyone needs those friends. Who are yours? Who is in your inner circle? Moreover, whose inner circle are you part of?

Many years ago, Tynes Hildebrand told a story to his junior high boys Sunday School class at First Baptist Church in Natchitoches. I was there. For some reason, the story has stuck with me over the years.

Seems Coach Hildebrand — he was the head basketball coach at Northwestern State University at the time — had been to a conference in St. Louis. Apparently, the folk there weren’t friendly, as he came back and recounted to his wife Julia. “I walked down the street and no one spoke to me or even looked at me,” he winced.

Then he said, Julia responded: “Well, Tynes, did you speak to them?” Umm, seems that Tynes hadn’t spoken either.

That’s where we find ourselves even today. The fast-paced, gotta-keep-movin’ world doesn’t allow us to stop along the way.

  • We ask people, “What can I do for you?” then don’t follow up.
  • We say “I’ll be there for you” and we don’t make it.
  • We intend to call and encourage or bring food or send a note, but it gets lost in the hecticness.
  • We walk past someone and sense they need a friend and keep walking, reluctant to get bogged down in the muck and mire of someone else’s life.

Everyone needs a friend. You need friends.

So, take inventory. How many friends can you call right now and they’d run over to your house in an emergency? Who can you count on?

Better still, who can count on you?

And, there’s the real prescription for friendship. If you want a friend, be a friend.

Dale Carnegie wrote one of the all-time classics: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Read it? If you haven’t get it today! In the book, he said something I haven’t been able to shake: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

I visit with a dozen or more people every day and I practice that principle. When I get to sit down with them I generally say “Tell me your story in 60 seconds.” Often, they take longer, and that’s okay, but people are always willing to tell you their story and you will always find something interesting about them. Always.

If you really want a challenge — or to be surprised — find someone with whom you don’t particularly agree or someone you don’t necessarily get along with. Maybe even someone who rubs you the wrong way. You will be pleasantly surprised, I promise. I’ve done it, recently, so I know. You’ll become empathetic, interested and even moved at times.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said: “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”  Try that, you may like it.

Everyone needs friends. You need friends. Good, loyal, dedicated, faithful, radical, passionate, devoted, rabid, diehard friends. So does the guy or girl you didn’t have time for earlier today.

So, for now, forget finding friends and forget about your worries, needs or concerns, because, you know, it’s not about you!

Become a friend, and watch your life change. It won’t be long and, ever so suddenly, you’ll find the close-knit friend who will “…lay down beside you and listen.”

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