Sunday, October 21, 2012

True Friend

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

"Why don’t you come right out and say it?  Even if the words are probably gonna hurt I’d rather have the truth than something insincere." -Relient K

The truth is powerful.  It is full of truth.  It shapes what we do and how we interact with people.  Sadly we are directed not by full truth but by our perception of the truth.  Rarely are we given one hundred percent truth but instead we are given some deviation of the truth which forms our perceptions.  Telling the truth should be easy and something instinctive to all of us but it does not seem to come natural all the time.  What comes natural, at least to me, is telling others what they want to hear.  I aim to please people.  That is my nature.  But there is something to be praised about being one hundred percent truthful.  I have found that my relationships that are built on truth are more solid than any other type of relationship.  My “true” friendships are the ones that last.

Jesus told everyone exactly who he was and those who could accept him for who he was were more than his friends, they were his companion.  In John 6 Jesus says, “47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh….”  In response many of his disciples left but those who knew the truth about Jesus stayed: “66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

This passage, without knowing Jesus, is extremely difficult to accept.  Jesus is telling His audience that they need to eat His actual flesh and drink His actual blood in order to have eternal life.  As in everything Jesus had perfect timing in knowing when to tell the truth.  Had Jesus been saying these things at the beginning of His ministry no one would have followed Him.  If He had waited much longer the crowds would have crowned Him King (because He had just fed the 5000).  Jesus knew He was not an earthly king and He knew that He had to die so He made a statement to see who his real disciples were.  If you notice, in verse 66, the Bible uses the words “many of his disciples turned back.”  The people who turned away were not His acquaintances but these were men who followed Him regularly.

Luckily for us we don’t have to have Jesus’ perfect timing because the fate of every soul does not hinge on us revealing the truth about us to people.  But I think we can learn from Jesus’ authenticity.

The first step is knowing your audience.  The relationship between a husband and wife should be the most transparent of any relationship.  After that, relationships with members of the same gender should move towards complete transparency but relationships with members of the opposite gender should not.  Opposite gender relationships can stir up too much emotion and it is never a good idea to tempt ones loyalty to his or her spouse.  There are too many chances for “Well she just gets me better than my wife.”  Even if you are not married developing a “true” relationship with an opposite gender is still dangerous unless the ultimate goal is marriage.  If the goal is not marriage then it can cause mixed signals and hurt feelings.

The next step is knowing the situation.  Relationships should start off slow and if it continues more and more truth should be added.  Jesus did not start off telling the Twelve to eat His body and drink His blood but waited for the right moment when he knew the Twelve could handle it.  We have to ease into telling the truth and typically the flow of a relationship will lead to more and more truth being shared.  Finding that balance is difficult but if it works it will result in gaining a true friend.

This is the way to create lasting friendships.  Without the truth, friends will come and go because humans seem to be able to sense authenticity.  If you only say what others want to hear you may get lots of “friends” but true friends are only produced from a truth-filled relationship.

There are many “buts” when it comes to sharing the truth.  Many of those “buts” have merit.  The number one reason why people do not share the truth is because they do not want to hurt the other person. I believe there is a time to try to protect the other person but the longer that a truth is concealed, the more likely it is that person whom that truth is hidden from will discover the truth.  Or even worse, they will make up their own version of the truth.  I was recently at a funeral of a young man who died too young and the circumstances surrounding his death were unclear.  His father stood up in front of 1500 people and told them about how he wanted to conceal the truth because it did not honor his dead son’s memory.  But then he told the crowd that, “The truth sets the mind free.  Without the truth our minds comes up with their own conclusions.”  When the truth is told it frees the listener and the speaker.  The speaker does not need to worry about any lie being uncovered and the listener does not need to worry about uncovering any deceit.

What if my friends end up leaving after I tell them the truth?  I would respond with the question, “Were they a real friend to begin with?”  Jesus’ statement separated His true followers from those who were merely lukewarm followers.  In the same way, someone who cannot accept the truth about you may not be the type of person that you want to invest in.  I know that if everyone cannot accept the truth about who I am, God still loves me and He will never leave me nor forsake me.  The loneliness will come and go and friendships shift but there is still that constant in life. 

True friends see you for who you are and accept you for that.  I know I have made my fair share of mistakes when it comes to telling the truth and being a true friend.  I would say one thing and then do another, and I didn’t allow people to see the true me because I was afraid they would leave if they knew me.  Even though I never shared the truth with them, they still left because they could tell I was not being open and honest with them.  I now attempt to tell the truth and be open and honest when the time is right.  That way if they do leave, I have peace that I did everything I could to try and create a true friendship; rather than feeling guilty that I didn’t allow them to see the true “me.”

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