Failure to discern who is a genuine, true friend and who is not, leads to being manipulated and used. This may result in, among many other things, bitterness and a crippling inability to trust others.
The Holy Spirit has provided tools in Scripture to help you recognize genuine friendship. This is an essential life skill for you and your children. The Proverbs offer reliable observations about friendship. For example look at Proverbs 12:18:
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
These words provide insight about how to distinguish between the wise and the reckless. The reckless or rash person’s words hurt and bring pain. They cut deeply. When someone claims to be honest for speaking his mind and yet is insensitive, remember that insensitivity is not a mark friendship, but selfishness. In contrast, the words of the wise bring healing, even if they hurt. The words of the wise are well thought out. The words of a wise person bring healing and comfort. Thus, the wise person will be a good friend. The insensitive person cannot be trusted because he will only care for himself
Here is another example found in Proverbs 27:5-6:
5 Better is open rebuke
than hidden love
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
These two verses work together to drive home a particular point. This is a common occurrence in Hebrew poetry, formally called parallelism. Here is how it works in these two verses:
“Better is open rebuke” in verse 5, connects with “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” in verse 6.
In contrast, “than hidden love” in verse 5 connects with “profuse are the kisses of an enemy” in verse 6.
The way these verses are structured helps you to gain a valuable insight. Verse 5 shows if love is hidden, that is, it stays in the shadows, it is not love at all, but cowardice. So, rather than speak the truth, a person showers you with false kisses. This is a way to identify manipulation at work. Gratuitous flattery is not friendship!
Positively, an open rebuke is connected to the faithful wounds of a friend. Someone who loves you enough to honestly, but lovingly, tell you hard things is your friend.
By using these real life observations you can learn to identify those will be faithful friends. Another great passage to identify a true friend is found in I Corinthians 13:4-7. A true friend demonstrates the qualities of love taught by Paul.
Teach these truths to your children. Practice them for yourself. Build friendships that last!