We might have all heard the phrase, "show me your friends, and I'll show you your future."
Your parents might have said it to you while you were in high school.
Your youth pastor, or maybe some old guy on morning tv.
Fact is, you've heard it, and whether you disagree with it or not, i'm sure if you took a brief inquiry of your life, you'd start to notice they were right.
I had a friend once in college, well, we didn't start out as friends. In fact, on our first couple of interactions, i was certain he didn't even want to become friends.
He was the other funny guy on campus. Everyone knew him. Everyone liked him. Everyone even seemed to like him way better than they liked me; even my best friends. He was one of the popular kids. So I was determined to get to know him, become friends and then BOOM, both of our friend groups would combine and we'd be unstoppable.... you know...normal college thoughts. I expressed that we should hang out more and become closer friends and you know what he said?
"Okay but...if you want to be friends, that's all on you."
Essentially saying, he wasn't in the business of becoming friends, and if we were to be friends, it was MY job to do all the work.
Who says that?
Better yet, who HEARS that and still thinks that guy is cool?
Well, 'college me' somehow thought it was cool and decided to do all the work to become this guy's friend.
Anyway, I desperately wanted to be in this guy's "inner circle."
I did everything i could to be there for him, whatever he needed.
And there were brief moments where he let me in and confided in me.
But overall, I felt like I was the one doing all the work, giving all the advice, showing up when he needed and reaping zero benefits in the relationship.
In other words, our relationship was not a two-way street. And it taught me a lot about the relationships I wanted to build for the rest of my life.
What kind of community did I want around me? "Friends" who only use me when they need me or "brothers and sisters" who won't let a day go by without calling.
I often think of what I want written on my headstone.
Okay not THAT often. It's not like a dark thought I have.
For me, I think about what legacy I want to leave.
What will people remember me by?
Was I a good husband? Father? Friend?
One of the things i thought I'd want said about me when i leave this earth is, "he wasn't good at a lot of things, but man was he a supportive friend". I know it sounds weird, but that's how I've viewed myself for a very long time.
Not very good at a lot, but always there for those who might need me.
A little help. A little encouragement. A shout of praise.
A shoulder to cry on. A person to pray with.
I've always wanted to be in community with people and follow through on what that actually looks like.
And that's always been one of my biggest goals in life.
A headstone goal.
And for my friend from college, I was all of that for a period of time, even if I didn't get it in return. And since then, I've been able to learn what living in community really looks like. And it's not the glitz and glamour of what the popular kids look like, outside looking in. It's much more real.
Community is defined in two main ways:
a group of people living in the same place
a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals
The first is based on simple geography.
Where you live. Who's around you. Who you interact with.
The other is based on commonality. Ideals. Interests. Goals.
And it brings me to a simple question you can ask yourself,
Who around you is headed in the same direction you are?
Maybe you want this year of your life to look different than in years past.
You want to let go of old routines and old behaviors.
You want to change your future to achieve new dreams, new goals, better attitudes...
Maybe you have even tried this before and failed.
Have you ever stopped to think that in order for you to change your future, you might simply need to change your friends?
What a revolutionary thought.
In order for me to become BETTER I simply need to surround myself with people who are BETTER, or at least TRYING to do BETTER.
Now, this may sound very harsh... and i'm not suggesting that you should just close the door on your best friend of 15 years and walk away because they are holding you back.
What I am suggesting is that you might have to consider that.
But further, you might need to consider distancing yourself from people who you don't want to end up like. My pastor says all the time, "Don't take advice from someone whose life you wouldn't want to live"
I've seen people quit their dream job because they listened to their unemployed "friends" who still live with their parents.
I've seen people give up on marriages because they listened to unmarried "friends" who weren't christians or even in a committed relationship lasting longer than 3 months.
Now, I didn't intend for this article to take such a dark turn, but I've honestly had to learn this the hard way.
I've had to exit out of some relationships that were really painful.
I've had to walk away from some old friendships, and let God lead me to some new ones.
And I've seen myself grow.
As mentioned in my future headstone, I didn't think I had a lot to offer this world besides friendship. But as I've surrounded myself with the right people, they've pushed me, and I've developed.
My weaknesses have become strong. My confidence has risen.
I've learned what not to give up on until i've achieved it.
And some of it would have never happened if I wouldn't have let go of certain people along the way.
At the same time, I've had the same best friend since I was 5 years old.
Some friends stick closer to you than a brother, and no matter what, you will never let go of them.
In the same vain that the wrong community can hold you back, the right community can propel you forward.
Surrounding yourself with the right people can and will make all the difference in life. And those who help you and push you to become the best version of yourself; those are the ones who stick around. Those are the ones you invest into.
Chances are, the same person who told you "show me your friends, and I'll show you your future", in the same breath recited Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
So, you wanna achieve new goals and new behaviors this year?
You want to become the best version of yourself?
Take a survey of those around you.
Who's sharpening you?
Who are you sharpening?
Proverbs 13:20 says "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm."
Are you walking with the wise?
Or are you harming yourself by surrounding yourself with the wrong people?
The cool thing about God, is that He brings things full circle.
Some friendships I've had to downgrade to acquaintances, and some of those acquaintances have circled back around to become friends again.
God knows what's best for you, and the community you surround yourself with will either point you towards Him, or lead you astray.
I think it's time to re-write the future.