This article is part of the 5 Myths series.
Myth #1: Friendship just happens.
I used to think that friendship didn’t require effort or skill. Sometimes a friendship works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Some people have good friendships, some don’t. It’s just the way it is, right?
But I’ve learned that friendship—true friendship—requires intentionality and even skill. Cultivating friendship is like cultivating the ground—it requires relational wisdom and it takes a lot of work. Without wise effort, our relationships will look like a neglected garden: withered, unruly, and covered with relational weeds.
Friendship doesn’t just happen. And this is good news because it means that deeper friendships are within reach. Each of us can put in more effort and grow in skill. And this begins with the first step of deciding that we will no longer take a passive approach to cultivating friendship.
Friendship doesn’t just happen. And this is good news because it means that deeper friendships are within reach.
Myth #2: You’re too busy for friendship.
Many of us are very busy. Between school, work, and personal and family priorities, we often feel too full for deep friendships. Some of us wonder how we can find time for friendship when we’re struggling to make time for sleep.
But the truth is, we make time for what we value. If we promote friends in our priorities, we’ll find that we have space for them in our schedules. And very often, folding friends into our lives won’t involve opening up new time-slots, but including them into the ordinary rhythms of life. You value food enough to make time for meals; why not eat one or two of them each week with a friend? You’re going to watch the game or go to the gym or the park; why not invite someone else to join?
Myth #3: Friendship is a social luxury.
Friendship is great, of course, but we don’t need it, right? Isn’t friendship more like a social luxury than a necessity? Charles Spurgeon would disagree:
Friendship seems as necessary an element of a comfortable existence in this world as fire or water, or even air itself. A man may drag along a miserable existence in proud solitary dignity, but his life is scarce life, it is nothing but an existence.1
He’s right. We need friendship like we need air. And this is because we were made in the image of a triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally existing in a fellowship of love. We need deep relationships because we were made for them. And we see just how necessary this is by watching what happens to us when we don’t have it anymore. Numerous studies show that life without friends isn’t just depressing; it’s dangerous. We begin to unravel emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. According to Proverbs, friendlessness is the path of foolishness: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1).
Although leather is a luxury, friendship is not. It’s more like oil to an engine. Without it, we eventually break down.
Myth #4: Friendship doesn’t entail responsibility.
We might think that the beauty of friendship is that we can enter or exit at will. It’s different than our relationships with our parents or siblings or spouse, right? Isn’t this the beauty of friendship—that it’s freely chosen and freely continued?
It’s true that we enter friendships freely. And it’s true that ending a friendship isn’t breaking a covenant. But it’s not true that there is no real commitment in friendships.
We can see this when we contrast two kinds of friendship—consumer friendship and covenantal friendship. Although we don’t need to make covenants with each other, true friends share a covenant-like commitment.
Consumer friends treat you like a new digital device—initially appealing, useful, and enjoyable, but when something better comes along, they trade you in for a new version. In contrast, covenantal friendship is a bond that holds. Covenantal friends don’t use one another; they deeply enjoy one another. Covenantal friends stick together even through suffering, sharing, and carrying burdens that are too heavy to bear alone.
Myth #5: We should not call Jesus our friend.
Maybe you’ve heard the sentiment that Jesus is not our friend, because he is our king. But this is a false dichotomy. Jesus is both the true king and also the truest friend.
The night he was arrested, Jesus taught his disciples how to understand the meaning of his coming death. And he wanted them to think of it in terms of friendship: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends” (John 15:13–14).
Jesus’s glory is certainly revealed through his kingly authority. But thinking of Jesus as our friend does not diminish this glory. Just the opposite: that such a great king would stoop to befriend us is sheer grace, and grace is the apex of God’s glory.
We don’t have to choose between the kingship and friendship of Jesus. In fact, choosing only one is the sure path toward diminishing his glory. We rightly revere and praise him when we see him as both our cosmic king and our closest friend.
- Charles Spurgeon, Sermons of Rev. C. H. Spurgeon of London, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1883), 11.