The Company You Keep

I read this article today, and while I thought most of it was less-than-insightful, the author did say one thing that really stood out to me:

“After all, you are the company you keep, but shouldn’t the company you keep help advance the you that you are?”

I feel like I’ve had several conversations with different people over the last few months regarding “friends” who behave badly, so badly, in fact, that there is discussion of cutting them out completely.  It’s serious, I know.  And if we are the company we keep, who wants to keep company that is rude, discourteous, thoughtless, selfish, etc.?  But really the crux of these conversations, which have all been based on very different circumstances, seems to be, what does this “friend” bring to my life?

I know what you’re thinking — friendship is a two-way street, it’s not all about what your friends can do for you, etc. — but hear me out.  I strive to be a good friend, to be thoughtful and supportive and conscientious and helpful and loving and fun.  I think these are important qualities to have in a close friendship.  But at some point, you can get to a place where it feels like you are the only one who is giving.  Come on, we’ve all been friends with a “taker” before.  You know, those people who only call when they need something or want to talk about themselves or only want to attend the social events they plan or worse, won’t commit to plans with you because it is pretty obvious that they are waiting for a better offer.

Sometimes it takes a really long time for you to identify a “taker” as such but once you do, you see it in everything they say and do.  And then you think, when was the last time this person just called to see what was going on in MY life? Or said something nice or supportive to me? Or encouraged me to accomplish a goal? Or supported me when I failed? That’s what friends do, right?

I know I’ve shared this sentiment with some of you before but I’ll say it again here — I want to be friends with people who make me a better person, who challenge me to be the very best version of myself.  When you’re friends with people who challenge you in a good way, things still don’t always come up rainbows and unicorns, but at least they want what is best for you.  And hopefully you want what is best for them.  We use our gifts to advance each other to bigger and better and brighter things.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17

And the people who don’t do that for you? Well, you don’t have to stop being friends with them, but you don’t have to prioritize them either.  I’ve found that the older I get the more difficult it is to have genuine quality time with the important people in your life.  Everyone is busy and stressed out and overworked.  So when I have time to spend with others, I want to spend it with the people who give me new ideas and warm fuzzies and encouragement and the hard truth when I need it.  As for everyone else, well, we can still be friends, but it just won’t be in the same way.

Who sharpens you?  Have you ever been friends with a “taker?” How did you deal with it?

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