Why are/were your parents so concerned about with whom you hang out?

Andy Stanley has an interesting quote on the topic, “Friends pretty much determine the direction and quality of our lives.” I would argue that for those that are married, your spouse has the greatest influence. But especially for middle school, high school, and college-age people, friends do have a great influence on our lives.

When we are around close friends, we are accepted. When we are accepted, we drop our guard down. That is one of the best things about friendship, but a dangerous aspect. Odds are, some of the most risky and unwise things we did in life occurred due to the bad influence of our close friends. We were sucked in. Addictive behaviors or bad habits may have started. A single, devastating, life-changing event may have occurred.

Proverbs 13:20 from The Message says,

“Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”

The word “fool” here doesn’t mean low IQ. It refers to those who lack judgment and wisdom and act in a way displeasing to God. They know the difference between right and wrong, but just don’t care. If they don’t care about their lives, they won’t care about your life, about the health of your marriage and family, and about the things you find important. Our parents, spouse, wise friends, and God all want the best for us; that’s why they advise us to choose our close friends wisely.

Let’s be clear. I’m not at all saying to be unfriendly and to not attempt to have a positive influence with those consistently acting in a foolish manner. Not at all. If we are honest, that described most of us at one point in our life, and I bet we’re glad we had wiser people in our life to guide us through it. The key is to avoid close friendship with those who are “stuck” in the fool stage of life. This is because close friends let their guards down and are therefore influenced by each other. None of us is an exception to this principle. And the foolish usually win the influence game. Our lives can start heading in a very different direction than intended.

The first part of Proverbs 13:20 gives us insight into how to become wise. We become wise by hanging out with the wise. You intuitively know who these people are. Seek those who are on the right path in life and spend time with them. Find people older and wiser and learn from them. Hanging out with the wise will make us wise.

In summary, this month’s guardrail is to avoid close friendships with the foolish and to seek wise people to be your close friends. How do you know when you are bumping up against this guardrail and heading for danger? Here are a few warning signs:

  1. You find yourself pretending to be someone other than who you are.
  2. You feel pressure to compromise your behavioral standards.
  3. You say, “I’ll go, but I won’t participate.”
  4. You hope the people you care about don’t find out about where you’ve been or who you’ve been with.

This article was adapted from the Andy Stanley Series by the same name. To view the messages: http://yourmove.is/episode/ep2-why-cant-we-be-friends