I’ve learned the hard way recently that these two verses can actually go hand in hand:
- “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” -Proverbs 13:20
- “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23
Sometimes I walk with the wise, surrounding myself with people I admire. Those times I typically flourish and find joy. Sometimes I surround myself with people who believe foolish things and act accordingly, and it does hurt me—deeply.
But I think the worst is when I’ve acted foolishly, and my companions have “suffered much harm.” I don’t just mean acting like an idiot and hurting someone once in a while, only to apologize and behave better afterward. I do my fair share of that, and unfortunately I’ll never be perfect in that regard.
I’ve learned recently that by systematically not guarding my heart, I’ve ultimately hurt not only myself but others. I’ve always heard to “guard your heart” but I didn’t know what that looked like in friendship, or that it even mattered until recently. It’s a terrible feeling to know you acted out of ignorance and it resulted in pain for both yourself and others.
Sometimes foolishness in friendship is subtle…
- It’s giving someone the keys to your heart and home before they’ve proven they can cherish them properly.
- It’s being committed to someone before getting to know each other, only to later realize that your expectations vary greatly.
- It’s excusing unacceptable, harmful, or destructive behavior and expecting the end result to be ok.
- It’s ruminating on the way someone “close” to you hurts you and displays their immaturity instead of addressing it, forgiving, and moving on.
It’s so easy to point a finger at the other person, but I have to admit I’ve been an ignorant fool when it comes to my heart and friendships. The result has been unmet expectations and a lot of pain for not only me, but other people I care about. They’ve had to be cut from a place they never really belonged (or they’ve cut me), and that severing is painful for everyone. What could’ve been something beautiful—even a distant friendship—becomes an abandoned rose garden, former beauty wrapped in thorns.
One of my wisest and truest friends once told me, “Christine, people will tell you who they are. Are you going to listen?” For much of my life I’ve been in such a rush to trust my first impression of people I like, I haven’t given them enough time to tell me who they really are, what they want, where they’re going. I foolishly haven’t waited for them to get to know me either. The more we learned about each other, the less we liked, the more we felt slighted when our needs weren’t met, and the more bitter we became. By the time the stark differences in our values fully emerge, we’ve had no choice but to let each other go.
I don’t mourn for releasing the companions who never should’ve been. In fact, in that regard I am relieved and joyful. By the grace of God we were able to wish each other farewell and harbor no bad feelings. I feel light knowing that my heart and home are once again protected.
But I do grieve for the pain leading up to the parting. For the ways we hurt each other without being mean or rude, but by operating on a false sense of reality. It was preventable pain caused by the foolishness of not guarding my heart from the beginning, which consequently would’ve protected theirs.
I’m grateful to have learned about letting a friendship develop gradually instead of letting every wall down from the start, allowing both parties to disclose who they really are and what they want. And I’m really glad to be moving forward. This lesson is one I will regard highly in order to prevent similar pain with other good people. I’m pressing in to the perfect Friend (Jesus, God, Holy Spirit) to heal, grow in wisdom, and continue with healthy friendships.
Today I am thankful for grace in my personal situations. I’ll spare the finite details of it all, but the summary is that God is beyond faithful in all of my shortcomings. (If you want to roll your eyes at that cliche—test it! It’s true!)
In humility I’m sharing this lesson with hope that others can learn from a blog instead of painful experience. Don’t be a companion of fools, and don’t be the foolish companion who causes harm. Seek wise friends and guard your heart—even in friendships.