Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Who Are Your Friends?

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn

There are some subjects that seem to keep coming up in my studies of personal finance. One of them is friendship. Who you choose as partners, friends, or associates as you walk your path is critically important to the outcome of your life. We didn’t get to pick our family members, but we do choose where and with whom we spend our time.

It seems sociologists spend a lot of time researching the obvious. Recent studies of human networking have proven that, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Go figure. Yes, humans are an intensely tribal species. We like to be around others who talk like us, dress as we dress, and share the same values and interests. These studies further indicate that your mother was right. She told you not to hang around with those no count neighborhood hoodlums because you would get in trouble. Yep, we mimic behavior commonly found in our peer groups. This even extends to weight gain. If you hang around fat people you will gain weight. The researchers don’t know if that is because you will eat more with your fat friends or because obesity is more accepted and people just quit trying, but this is an experimentally demonstrated fact.

The number one most important financial decision for most of us is the selection of a mate. It is a lot easier and cheaper to find a new job or earn another degree than it is to get a new wife and new children. But it doesn’t stop there. Where and with whom you spend your time will contribute to not only your success, but more importantly to your happiness. Ask yourself, “Who do I want to be?” Who do you admire? What about their character, values, or gifts do you esteem? Which of these attributes could you emulate in your own life?

Seek out people who know more than you in areas you consider important. If you wish to become more “spiritual,” whatever that might mean to you, hang out with people who are more “spiritual.” If you want to learn more about managing your finances, find people who are doing a good job managing their finances. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

A note to myself: If you want to lose weight, hang out with people are into fitness. If nothing else they will hold you accountable for your bad behavior.

Proverbs 18:24 states, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Those closest to us, the five friends mentioned at the start of this post or the four friends who were so determined to bring their sick buddy to Jesus that they tore a hole in a roof, are of critical importance to the outcome of our mission, even our very life. Be careful. You need to find people that share your values and dreams, but there is more. You need to find people who will lift you up when you fall down or kick you in the backside when you need to keep moving forward, people who believe in you and your mission.

If you look at the life and ministry of Jesus, he had a “beloved disciple,” John. Jesus entrusted John with the care of his mother at the crucifixion. There were three of the twelve disciples that were part of the inner circle. John, his brother James, and Peter were present at the transfiguration. Of course Jesus founded his church on the twelve less Judas plus Matthias and Paul. Even our Lord was betrayed by one of friends. It happens. Beyond the twelve, Jesus had 72 (or 70) disciples whom he trusted with his message. This group included some heavy hitters including our Lord’s own brother, James who became the first bishop of Jerusalem.

If Jesus was careful about his selection of friends, shouldn’t we be concerned about who we let into our lives?

John 15:15-16

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

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