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Question 2: Are You a Foul Friend?

Let me suggest three traits.

First, a foul friend is quick to criticize.
In my opinion, there are two kinds of people that have the hardest time making friends. One is the person wants to have friends so badly she can't understand what it means to be a friend. These people are socially unaware. They don't ask questions. They see the relationship as a one way street. Everything about them screams "I'm an empty vessel ready for you to pour your love and affirmation and curiosity into me."

The other type that has a hard time making friends is the super critical person. These people have an opinion on everything and must verbalize that opinion to everyone (probably bloggers!). More than just offering their opinion, they rain down a relentless barrage of negativity. "Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent" (Prov. 11:12).

A few weeks ago I was riding in a car with an older Christian man I'd never met before. I was struck by the bridle he put on his tongue. He would ask me a question and when he saw that we might not completely agree, he'd simply say, "I see you've thought about that. I don't need to say anything more." He asked good questions and kept his thoughts to himself sharing them would have served no constructive purpose. Bad friends share every thought, however critical, as a means of self-expression. They don't think what their words are doing or whether they are necessary in this situation.

Consequently, the foul friend gets into conflict that could have been avoided. "Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you. Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm" (Prov. 3:29-30). It's all too easy to ruin friendships because we had a bad day. It's just as easy to get into a senseless argument because of our own jealousy, insensitivity, or hypersensitivity. Foul friends are quick to criticize.

Second, a foul friend is annoying. We're not talking personality or temperament. Some people rub us the wrong way. Fine. But other people are just plain rude. Rude, annoying people aren't aware of, or don't care about, social customs and cultural norms. This may seem like an innocent quirk, but the Bible calls it sin (1 Cor. 13:5).

Proverbs gives two concrete examples of annoyingness in action.

1) Being obnoxious. “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing” (Prov. 27:14). Got it? Don't be the life of the party when you wake up. (Kids, this applies to you too.)

2) Not knowing your place. “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you” (Prov. 25:17). If you're the sort of friend who comes over unannounced, never says please or thank you, always expects people to wait on you, and has no recognition of your role as a guest, then you're not the sort of friend people are looking for.

Third, a foul friend can't be trusted. This may mean you're a blatant liar (Prov. 23:10-11; 25:18). But duplicity can be more subtle. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give’-when you have it with you” (Prov. 3:27-28). Foul friends don't keep their end of the bargain. They don't return favors. They don't give back what they borrow. They are slow to help and quick to look for ways to avoid being put upon. You can’t trust them to keep their word.

Along the same lines, they are careless with their words. “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking'” (Prov. 26:18-19). Words hurt after you launch them, no matter what you say your intention was. So be careful. If you don't care about the effect of your words, people won't trust you. And if you can't be trusted you won't be a very good friend.

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14 thoughts on “The Gift of Friendship and the Godliness of Good Friends (Part 3)”

  1. Katherine says:

    Wow. thank you! God has given you such wisdom. This has confronted me in some areas of sin in my life.
    Thank you!

  2. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this topic. Our ladies’ Sunday school class is studying Proverbs over the summer, and the lesson I am teaching is about friendship. I’ve received much inspiration!

  3. Roger Ball says:

    Some of this sounds like more slanderous Gotcha! games in order to escape accountability.

  4. Mark says:

    Thank you for your wisdom Kevin, this post is vert searching and humbling. One point. You said ‘One (foul friend) is the person (who) wants to have friends so badly she can’t understand what it means to be a friend. These people are socially unaware. They don’t ask questions. They see the relationship as a one way street. Everything about them screams “I’m an empty vessel ready for you to pour your love and affirmation and curiosity into me.”
    I suffer from a mild form of adult Aspergers Syndrome. To look at I appear normal, but I am socially unaware. Social interaction is a nightmare. Infact I don’t know how to interact socially. And making friends is nigh on impossible, though I would love to.
    I would hope people would love me despite my unloveliness and help me in my problem. So that in being loved I may also learn to love and love and be a friend. That to me is an experience of the unconditional love of the gospel.

  5. Tamara Slack says:

    Mark, thank you so much for sharing your struggles with social interaction. I can relate, so your honesty helped me. I pray God will help you in your weakness and supply your heart with His friendship when you feel you need another’s – that His will be enough during those times :)

  6. Paul Clutterbuck says:

    I’d like to thank you, too, Mark. I was about to make a comment along exactly the same lines as yours, but you got there ahead of me! I was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2006, at the age of 33. For almost 20 years of my life up to that time, I had also minimized my interactions with girls and younger women, because I couldn’t seem to say anything without somehow hurting people. Being “socially unaware,” as Kevin put it, isn’t necessarily a choice that we make, but often an issue of neurological development or simply lack of experience around people. People with ASDs can appear normal, but we’re not trying to draw all the attention to ourselves just to “lose friends and infuriate people.” Just like everybody else, we have a hunger for relationship with God and with people who will accept us for who we are. There is no one on this earth who is undeserving of the love of God, and as Christians we are all called to be channels of it (myself and Mark included).

    I too long for Christian friends who will show me the grace of God by looking past the awkwardness and what appears to be self-centeredness on the outside, and loving the person on the inside in spite of it all. Too often, I find myself being judged as unfit for relationships by other Christian people as well as those outside the Church, which leads to a condition I call “chronic rejection.” I have heard of people with ASDs, and other kinds of social outcasts, committing suicide because they felt no one cared whether they were alive or dead.

    Christian people who would eschew Darwinism in their schools’ science classes and college lectures are all too apt to behave like social Darwinists toward people who don’t fit the healthy, working middle-class norm. If we genuinely want to communicate the inclusive love of Christ in our churches, and we genuinely believe that all people are created equally in the image of God, then why oh why oh why do we keep up this ethic of “survival of the fittest,” as if those who are disadvantaged in some way have no right to live normally and with the respect that all people deserve?

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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