Surrounding Ourselves with Friends of Integrity

By Steve Sonderman

Life is full of choices.

“Which college should I attend?”
“What career will I pursue?”
“Who will I marry?”
“What will I have for lunch?”
“What will I wear to work today?”
”Where will we go on vacation?”
“What will I do this weekend?”
“Which team will I root for?” (for me that’s easy: the Green Bay Packers!)

Every single day we make decisions. Some are small and insignificant and others very difficult and potentially life-changing. I’d like to suggest that one of the most important decisions you will make throughout your life is the friendships you choose to maintain. In large part, the quality of your life will be determined by the relationships and friends you choose.

During a recent study in the book of Proverbs, I discovered it had just as much to say about choosing your friends as it does about being a friend. It is very clear that God wants us to choose our friends carefully and wisely.

Let’s look at a couple of these verses:

Proverbs 12:26 – The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Proverbs 13:20 – Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 22:24 –25 – Do not make friends with a hot tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you will learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.

Can it be any clearer? When one looks at these verses, we learn the importance of choosing our friends as well as the danger of choosing poorly. If we choose well, we enhance our chance of going in the right direction. If your desire is to become like Christ, follow Christ, and serve Christ, then choose friends who have the same desires and passions. If we associate with those who are easily angered, given to swearing, materialism or lustful thoughts and actions, it is contagious and will affect who we are as men.

I’ll say it one more time: the course of your life will be determined by the friends you keep.

My guess is each of you can think back to a time when you chose poorly and the effect it had on your life. I know I can. The guys I normally hung out with didn’t even consider drinking. But I found myself slowly spending time with another group because they were the cool guys, and before long I found myself involved in some activities that I’m not very proud of.

After several months of ditching my old friends, the truth of 1 Corinthians 15:33 “bad company corrupts good character,” hit home to me and I realized I needed to make a choice: return to my friends who were heading in the direction I wanted to go and who would pull me up to the noble things in life, or stay with the guys that were pulling me down and away from the Lord. The choice was simple and to this day I’m glad I chose well. One of those men, Dave, is still my best friend after 40 years.

As men we spend a great deal of time searching for the “right” doctor, lawyer, accountant, and golf pro. And usually we spend very little time carefully searching for and aggressively pursuing close friendships. Here are two key principles to keep in mind when choosing friends.

Time – The best way to get to know someone and see their character, values, and ethics is to spend time with them. There’s absolutely no substitute for time. By going to lunch with guys from work, or taking in a ball game together, or going fishing for the day you will be able to observe and learn much about them. The more time you spend with them, the more likely you will see their true nature.

Talk – There’s no way of getting around it—if you want to see what a man is made of you will need to talk with him. When I’m with someone new, I will often ask questions to get to know them and what is important to them. Questions like: What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What have you read recently? What gets you excited these days? If you could do anything, what would it be?

When you couple time and talk you have a window into their soul and it helps you determine if they are going to be someone who will enhance your walk with the Lord or pull you down. When you do find a friend or two, they are more precious than silver or gold as they will:

Help you try again when you fail.
Encourage you when you are discouraged.
Lighten your load when too heavy.
Give you strength when tempted.
Support you when tragedy strikes.
Call you to whole-hearted devotion to Jesus and serving Him with your life.

I am blessed to have a few guys in my life that do just that, and my hope is you will cultivate friendships with those who will do the same in your life.

Steve Sonderman is Pastor of Men’s Ministries and founder of No Regrets Men’s Ministries. He consults widely with churches worldwide, sharing his passion for ministry to men in every local church. He makes his home in Brookfield, Wisconsin with his wife, Colleen.