I sipped my salted Haitian latte and listened as my friend Annie confided the concerns and excitements she had about her budding relationship with Chris.
While I wasn’t officially her mentor, Annie often turned to me – a woman with ten years of life and almost a decade of marriage on her — for advice as she navigated the dating world. In those moments when she literally looked across the coffee house table to me for counsel, I chose my words carefully. I knew my perceptions of love and marriage carried weight with her. I didn’t take this lightly.
Yet Annie wasn’t the only one to glean insight as we lingered over coffee.
Through my friendship with her, I was reminded not merely of the importance of my own words, but why the attitudes, opinions, and conversation of those within my inner circle matters.
The friends we keep
The Apostle Paul recognized that the friends we keep are important. In 1 Corinthians 15:33, he wrote,
Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.”
While our friends may not be “bad company” necessarily, if they don’t esteem marriage and seek to build us up in our relationship with our fiancé or spouse, than they may be ruining “good morals.” Because the truth is: The people we spend time with will rub off on us…as well as the way they view marriage.
Like Annie, I’m influenced by what those closest to me believe and say about marriage. Perhaps not as strongly as I was when my now-husband and I dated, got engaged, and first embarked into married life, but even now, I’m not immune.
It’s my guess that regardless of what season you’re in—seriously dating, engaged, or newly married—you aren’t either.
While we have little control over our family and their perceptions, we can choose our friends. We can determine which individuals we should keep at the casual friendship level and which ones we turn to as confidants. One way I’ve learned how to separate the two is by doing a friendship inventory from time to time. I ask myself three questions.
- Do my close friends esteem marriage? Dictionary.com defines the word esteem as “to regard highly or favorably; regard with respect or admiration.” For me, this means I want friends who are yes, authentic, meaning they don’t sugarcoat the difficulties and challenges marriage can bring; yet at the same time they are hopeful. There’s a difference between a friend who understands married life won’t be perfect and a friend whose overall view of marriage is pessimistic.
- Do my close friends view the opposite sex in a positive light? I’ve had friends over the years who are quick to bash the male species as a whole. In general, their opinion of men is low. Their words and actions communicate: men aren’t to be trusted or respected. Sure, men have messed up, failed, committed atrocities, and broken trusts. But, so have women. I want friends who will recognize that we are all sinners – men and women alike – and extend grace when others disappoint.
- Do my close friends seek to build me up in my relationship with my husband? When I share a frustrating experience from my marriage, I don’t want friends who will affirm me at the expense of my husband. Yes, you read that correctly: A good friend is one who is willing to offer correction. I want a friend who will listen to the situation, seek to help me recognize my part in the argument, and point me to reconciliation.
So what do you do if anyone in your inner circle doesn’t fare so well in light of the inventory?
I encourage you to have a heart-to-heart talk with this friend. Don’t point out how you perceive that he or she has “failed” in their attitudes toward marriage; rather, affirm him or her as an important individual in your life. Share with this friend specific ways you’d love to have his or her encouragement and support in your relationship with your finance or spouse. Give them an opportunity to rise to the occasion.
It’s been almost six months since I last sipped Haitian coffee with Annie. Within a matter of months, we both moved to different states. I still keep up with her though and smile every time I see pictures of her and Chris online. And one of these days, between our busy schedules, we may just find time to sip a latte and catch up over FaceTime.