“Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called a Friend of God.”. James 2:23 (NRSV)
Many in the older generation would recognize the object in the picture above. It’s a Yoyo which is something that kids played with in my generation – my wife was particularly good at it and has lots of tricks that her grandchildren love. There is even a science about what makes a yoyo yo? http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/what-makes-a-yo-yo-yo/
More recently, the term Yoyo has taken on a new sense which I learned from my daughter several years ago. At the time, she and her family were temporarily living with us in our house while they were building a new house for their family. With all of the coming and goings, dinner was sometimes frenetic and unpredictable due to everyone’s busy schedules.
One afternoon, I called to see what that night’s dinner plans were, and my daughter, Liz, told me that everyone was going in different directions and that I was “YOYO”. I asked her what that meant and she replied “You’re On Your Own.” Short translation – it’s up to you to figure out your own dinner, which for me often meant that I ate out at a nearby restaurant. I get that.
Transition the YOYO concept from being on your own for dinner to being on your own in life and a spiritual dimension. As Christians, we know we are not alone and that God our Father is always with us as promised in Psalm 139. In fact, we cannot escape him – he is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
The Psalmist asks “Where can we hide?” The answer is we can’t. In fact, James 2:23 says Abraham was a Friend of God because he believed God. Anyone believing in God has the same standing with God as Abraham did. He is our friend – just as the lyrics of the song “Friend of God” says, “I am the friend of God; He calls me friend.” So, the bottom line is that we aren’t alone in a spiritual sense which is comforting.
Nonetheless, the value of friends in your life cannot be overstated. Researchers have connected the dots and many of the social problems of our modern culture – from homelessness, divorce and obesity – actually have their root cause in the lack of friendships. The Greek philosopher summarized it this way: “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge.”
There are dozens of Biblical examples, including Nathan and Jonathon in David’s life. Both played a role in David’s life – Jonathon, at first, who swore his loyalty to David in 1 Samuel 18:4 because “he loved him as himself.” Jonathon saved David several times from harm from his father, King Saul, who wanted to kill David. Nathan on the other hand, was the only one to call David out for his sin with Bathsheba which resulted in Uriah’s death.
Tom Roth who started the Gallop Organization which does cultural and political surveys, has written a book Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. The book is the result of his research with others on the value of friendship in one’s life.
Not surprising, you often become what your friends are – if your friend eats healthy, you are five times more likely to eat healthy. In the workplace, if one doesn’t develop a friendship, they have only a 1 in 12 chance of feeling engaged in their work. In marriage, the research shows that friendship is five times more important than physical intimacy.
Roth notes that virtually all of the self-improvement courses focus on developing leadership, management and personal growth, but almost none of them deal with the development of a one-on-one relationship.
Roth describes the friendship between Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, and Winston Churchill in early World War II. Roth observed that they wrote more than 2,000 letters to each other, and spent over 100 days together during that time in history, often spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day with each other.
Both knew each other’s strengths and flaws. In Churchill’s inimical words, he described his relationship with Roosevelt this way: “Our friendship is the rock on which I build for the future of the world so long as I am one of the builders.”
Roth’s book suggests that you conduct a “friendship audit” which will help you identify friendships that provide you with the different things you need, then to connect with them to strengthen you. Roth has a website on which you can do an audit on any of your friends to help you see what the relationship looks like in terms of benefit and insights into the strengths of that person in your life.
On this point, I might disagree with Roth’s premise because I believe the strongest relationships have no quid pro quo – in a deep friendship, the relationship itself is the goal, not what you can get out of it. There is a significant difference between networking and friendship. Networking involves developing relationships with others as a means to advance your agenda or career, whatever that might be.
A 2011 Harvard Business Review entitled “Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network” is a good source for developing smarter networks from a career standpoint, but note that the limits of article are based on the workplace, not in life in general. https://hbr.org/2011/07/managing-yourself-a-smarter-way-to-network
Sadly, I had a former law partner who only developed “friendships” based on what he could get out of them. I saw that as being shallow and something missing in his life. Before he left my law firm and moved away, I told him that I hoped he could find at least one friend that provided him with a relationship based on solely on developing the relationship itself as being the goal, not the means to an end or for what he could get out of it.
The closest friendships are based on the ability to like each other for who you are, not for what you or they can deliver. I lost track of my law partner for several years, and then ran into a person with whom I knew he had a continuing business relationship. I asked my colleague how he was doing. His response didn’t surprise me. He said that “Joe was still careening down the guard rails of life”.
Just the mental image of a car careening from one side of the road and hitting a guard rail sending it to the other side of the road is a picture of life without moorings and deep friendships. As I said before, networking is not friendship, although in some instances, they may overlap and look the same.
Friendships take time to cultivate, first by building trust in each other, and then progressively moving to a level of transparency to where you can be yourself – warts, fears and insecurities and all – with another person.
Mentoring starts with developing a relationship based on friendship. You start by creating an environment of trust by establishing the fact that what is discussed with the mentee is to be held in strictest confidence. The mentor comes to the table with two objectives: creating a safe environment to open up the level of communication with the mentee, and secondly to help the mentee become the best he or she can be. Sometimes being the best is project specific – being a sounding board for some activity or proposed endeavor.
It’s really simple. Not complicated as some would think. Listening happens to be a better skill than talking. Anyone can listen, even me.
The challenge is the same here as in other posts: the next generation of millennials is desperate to tap into the life of a mentor. They want someone who has experienced life to come beside them and help them find direction and purpose. They often feel they are on their own and wish they had someone to guide them. Your challenge is not to tell them “YOYO”, but to invest in them by spending time developing a relationship.
Tom Rath: . Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. Gallup Press: September 2006. You can do an interesting profile or “audit” of any friend at www.vitalfriends.com.
Principles of smarter networking from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2011/07/managing-yourself-a-smarter-way-to-network
WORSHIP: Listen to Friend of God:
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