Common Misconceptions About Friendship & How Jesus Shows Us a Better Way

Common Misconceptions About Friendship & How Jesus Shows Us a Better Way

by | May 10, 2023 | Friendship

This is an article addressing what I’ve learned from 25 years of friendship…or, put differently, it breaks down common misconceptions concerning the nature of deep friendships.

Misconception #1: It is someone else’s responsibility to come and be my friend. We might not admit it, but we live like this is true. Our world is experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. Maybe you’re feeling it too. In that case, you are likely open to friendship…but then it goes no further. Why? Because taking the first step induces fear. Right? And by avoiding that first step we secure the certainty that we won’t be rejected.

Misconception #2: Friendship requires absolute overlap of interests. It doesn’t. Obviously, without some overlap, the likelihood of friendship decreases. But friendship can result from as small a shared interest as a book, swing dancing, online gaming, new parent struggles, photography, playing/watching sports, and such.

Misconception #3: True friends have an instant connection. That may be true but only in rare cases. But, even in such cases of instant connection, it can’t be said that such a friendship is deep, at least not yet. Deep friendship comes through time spent walking life’s bumpy road together.

Misconception #4: Everyone else has deep friendships. Nope. Wrong. I’ve learned as a pastor how common this mistake is. “The grass is greener.” “They have what I want.” “They don’t know what it’s like.” “I’m the only one alone.” It’s a common human condition to regard ourselves at a deficit and others at a surplus.

Misconception #5: Deep friends never disagree or have conflict. It seems natural (at least in the Midwest) to want to avoid conflict with friends. But friendships which last years will absolutely experience disagreements. And one of the key reasons why they’ve lasted is because they’ve worked through the conflict and hurt. Do NOT minimize this point. Long-lasting friendships continue despite hurt and not because of an absence of hurt.

Misconception #6: It should come naturally. If friendship means putting someone else’s needs before yourself, why do we think that would come naturally? The human condition is toward selfishness. That means each of us seek friendship while naturally motivated by self-interest. Think about that. The existence of any friendship anywhere amongst selfish human beings is a grace from God.

Misconception #7: Friendship should work the first time. Wouldn’t life be grand if it always worked the first time? Davis recently attempted a fix on his garage and it worked the first time. He was shocked. I was shocked when he shared the story. Why? Because in our broken world things seem to never work the first time, friendships included.

Misconception #8: This friendship must exceed what I experienced in high school (or college). There is something unique about high school and college that lends itself to friendship. More free time. More independence. More willingness to lose sleep for late-night wings and conversations. Then life gets real with jobs and responsibilities and bills and long MN winters. And real life makes prioritizing time to build friendships exceedingly difficult. Not impossible. But challenging. For example, late-night happy hours now start after I’m in bed.


Jesus Shows Us a Better Way

These mistaken beliefs are a kind of proverbial-style wisdom, general rules of thumb, when it comes to friendships. They’re not iron-clad and they’re certainly not gospel. So that begs the question, “What does the gospel say to these things?” It might sound like…

Though Jesus came as a perfect friend, we did not treat him as such. Instead, we disregarded him (John 1:9-13). Thus, like you, Jesus knows what it’s like to be spurned in friendship. You’re not alone in your pain if you’ve been spurned in friendship.

Though we viewed him worse than a friend, even as an enemy, he initiated a relationship and loved us and bore with us in order to initiate reconciliation, even friendship (Rom. 5:9-11, 8:29).

Though he was in perfect relationship with his Father, he became sin (2 Cor. 5:21) and experienced a profound separation from his Father (Mark 15:34), so that we’d be spared that same pain and exclusion. Jesus knows loneliness. He’s been there. You’re not alone in feeling isolated. And he desires for you to be connected to others.

Though we wronged him countless times, he is a friend of sinners (Matt. 11:16-19). You won’t be, and you don’t need to be, the perfect friend to Jesus. It’s okay. Take a deep breath and relax.

Though Jesus rightfully had a grievance against us, a valid complaint about our lack of faithful friendship, he does not treat us as our sins deserve. He does not exchange evil for evil, selfishness for selfishness, but rather overcomes evil with good (Rom. 12:21), overcomes selfishness by selflessly bearing the cross (Luke 23:34). You’ve been offered the best of friendships from the best of people––God himself.

For Jesus to become a friend of sinners, he did not wait for us. He initiated. It was not easy but came at great personal cost. Friendship with us did not come naturally; it forced him to take on himself what was most unnatural to him––our sin and folly. For these reasons and more we say and sing and rejoice for “What a friend we have in Jesus!”

Because he is that type of friend to us, you are free to pursue friendship with others. What’s my suggestion? Try. Invite. Host. Pick a time and place. Invite people. Request they bring a drink or food to share. And *voila* you have…an event.

But maybe in time, with effort, and initiation, at personal cost, with some sacrifice, and some awkwardness, occasional conflicts, and a bit (or more!) of pain, you might just find friendship. At least, that’s what the gospel of Jesus would indicate.


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