Solomon was the wisest man on the earth and a deep thinker. Can I just say that I have to be in the mood for people like that? They can be a little exasperating. I’ll admit they have some really great things to say, in small measured doses. In his musings on the meaning of life, Solomon wrote about the value of a friend.
I know this particular passage gets read at weddings, and somewhere along the way someone decided to explain away that threefold cord by suggesting God is the third strand. I love that idea. But, for posterity, it’s a passage about friendship. (We won’t delve into the number of strands in Solomon’s wedded cord….)
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
I see four timeless truths in these verses:
- Friendship increases productivity
- Friendship means help in time of need
- Friendship provides comfort and warmth
- Friendship offers support in the battle
I like the way the New Living Translation puts verse 12. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
Something about that triple-braided cord makes me think of Charlie’s Angels. When the Angels are out-numbers and over-powered, they stand back to back to back. We cannot defend ourselves from behind. We need people who have our back. And in order to have a friend like that, you have to BE a friend like that.
We flourish in friendship during our teen years and our senior years. But there is a gap in the middle years of our lives where the majority of us are longing for relationship.
So here are 5 practical ways to cultivate life-long friendships.
- Be accepting – We are surrounded by messages that we are not enough – that we need to spend more, do more, be more. We spend so much time judging ourselves and lamenting our shortcomings. We all need a place to belong – a judge-free, shame-free zone
- Be vulnerable – Friendships flourish when we take the risk of coming as we are. Not plastic. Not perfect. Just real.
- Be playful – Life doesn’t always have to be so serious. Do something whimsical with a friend. Go see a baseball game. Try a swing dancing lesson. Buy a Groupon for horseback riding. Invite a friend to do something remarkable that neither of you has done before.
- Be strategic – Choose a small group of friends to connect with. Go deep, not wide. Think about the layers of community in Jesus’ life. Sure there were thousands of people who were drawn to him. But he trained and mentored 72 followers. He spent his daily life with just 12 disciples. And there were only 3 people in his inner circle. Focus your limited time and energy on cultivating deep relationships within those smaller circles.
- Be an initiator – Research shows that the biggest difference between people who have friends and people who don’t is how cute they are. NO!!! That’s not true at all!! The biggest difference between people who have friends and people who don’t is their ability to initiate activities.
Seth Godin said, “Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle.”
Take some time today to think about the layers of community in your life. No pressure to come up with 72 today. Focus on the 12 folks you want to do life with and the 3 friends in your inner circle.
- Do I need to move past a relationship that is holding me back?
- Do I need to reengage with an old friend?
- Who do I need in my circle to help me become who I was meant to be?
Make a plan to reach out and initiate an activity with a few friends this week and send a note to the people in your inner circle telling them how important their friendship is to you.
For more research and information on friendship – Check out Lifeboat