It’s 2017 and we live in a world where social media and electronic devices consume every aspect of our lives. In fact, screens consume so much of our time that actual social interactions scarcely exist. On Twitter and Instagram we have people who “follow” our lives and our stories (I say “stories” because some of the things that are posted are excellent works of fiction), while on Facebook we have “friends.”
Back when Facebook was first created, it was a social setting for college students only. People wanting to join the site had to create an account with a valid college email address. This was also during the time when it was http://www.THEfacebook.com. It was small yet elite. Everyone wanted to join to connect with random people from other colleges and everyone wanted to be “friends” with people from all over the country.
I remember when the site finally opened for my college and I was able to join in 2005 with my Bowie State University email address. I was happy but confused because I only connected with other people at my college…which was already very small so I already knew them. I started to venture around and I made friends with people from other HBCUs in Maryland (I gravitated towards HBCUs). Yessir, I knew I was something special with Facebook and all of my accumulating friends.
As the years passed, Facebook’s rules and guidelines grew and blossomed and my friends list shrank and became more intimate. As Facebook opened its doors to anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address, I threw up more restrictions on my account, making it so that only people that I knew in real life could find and access me. I became very cautious about who I let into my life and my personal space. I went into total “paranoid” (that’s what the privacy setting was called back in the day) mode with my account and I barely accepted friend requests…even from people that I knew in real life.
I got to the point where I was so strict about who I let into my internet life…but not so cautious about who I let into my real life. I allowed energies into my space that caused me physical and emotional harm. Some people were toxic on their own, while others were not but our friendship with one another was toxic.
Friends for days…
When my social media presence increased, my overall social abilities increased, as well. In college I just became a social butterfly and the life of the party. It was cool for a bit, but then it grew old fast. I had a reputation for being a friendly person (infer what you will from that statement) and as a result, I had a lot of people in my space- physically and emotionally. I have always been an empath (though I did not know that back then) and people would always come to me to seek advice. Back then people fell into one of three categories: family, friend, or stranger… with friend being the most populous group.
It was important for me to be liked. It was important to me to be included in every situation. It was important for others to call me their friend. I thought a friend was that person that had your back in all situations and covered for you when something sneaky was about to go down. With that definition, I thought my friends were plentiful. In fact, I held onto that definition until earlier this year.
Changing the meaning of the word…
As I travelled on this healing journey this year, I earnestly asked God to remove the people from my live who were a hindrance to me. To me, this meant people who I either relied on too much, making them an earthly idol (watch Bless others, Bless yourself… to hear what an earthly idol may be), or people who separated me from Christ and His ways. I prayed my prayer and watched as people began to disappear from my life. Little by little, Christ was drawing me closer to Him by removing the people and things that stood in between us. I soon realized that the people who were leaving were only leaves in my life- they were seasonal and their season with me had come to an end.
That may sound cold or harsh but I soon realized that sometimes we block our own growth and blessings by holding onto things that God told us to remove.
By August of this year, I had drastically reduced the number of people that I called a friend and increased the number of people that I called an acquaintance. Then God took it up a notch…
How the Bible defines a friend…
Earlier this month I got the opportunity to visit my cousin in New Jersey (read about it here) and while there, I received spiritual blessing after spiritual blessing from her pastor, Dharius Daniels. One of the many lessons that he taught was on the Biblical definition of a friend. I do not remember his words verbatim, but he said something along the line of us overusing the word friend. He reminded us that the Bible says a friend sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18: 24). Specifically, the scripture says “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”
Further in the Word, Jesus defines for His disciples what a friend means to Him:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.
John 15:12-17, NKJV
The scriptures in John and Proverbs combine to say that a friend is not a term that we should use lightly- this is a term that is reserved for those who share the same sense of love that is referenced in His word.
- A friend sticks closer than a brother.
- A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Proverbs 17:17, NIV)
- Christ laid down His life for ours.
- Christ calls us His friend.
Beloved, I implore you to be cautious with the term “friend.” A friend is not someone that we meet on social media nor is it someone that we have known for a long period of time.
A friend should be our iron, constantly sharpening us as we sharpen them.
A friend should be willing to lay down their life for ours. Not literally, necessarily, but definitely spiritually. A friend should be willingly to go before the Lord on our behalf, fighting and pleading the blood over our life.
A friend does not disappear when times get hard or change like the seasons, instead they are planted firmly in our lives like the that of a Baobab tree.
Beloved, I am not suggesting that you remove every person from your life just because they do not fit this description. However, I am suggesting that you reserve this prestigious title for those worthy enough of its honor.