Friendship Can Be Painful


“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).

Who is truly your friend?

We all look to our friends to support us when we are down, to back us up when we are in trouble, to understand us when no one else does. We want our friends to express their care and concern and build us up with their kind words.

But since genuine love always seeks our good, not necessarily our happiness, sometimes true friends also have to perform the unenviable task of telling us the truth–at least to the best of their ability to tell it. That means that some of the things they say will hurt.

Someone who is less concerned about our welfare but more interested in how we can be used isn’t so concerned to tell us the truth. Such people butter us up with nothing but good things to say. And you know why we slather things with butter—it’s only to improve the flavor before we sink our teeth in.

Living with the truth of Proverbs 27:6 requires a loving atmosphere in which we learn to accept such friendly wounds as well as inflict them. In order for such wounds to be truly friendly, they must also be limited to times when we genuinely have someone else’s welfare at heart. Wise King Solomon did not mean to open the door to arbitrary meanness. Other proverbs warn against spouting off every stray thought that happens to come to mind.

This is a practical lesson for life in a Christian congregation. There are likely to be more opinions than people, opinions that are passionately held. We do well to check ourselves as we respond to each other. Every viewpoint is welcome, but not every rebuttal we are tempted to make is suited for a public forum.

And not every contradictory viewpoint, no matter how strongly expressed, should be taken as a personal attack. We are friends, teammates, working toward a common goal. If a friend perceives some weakness in our thinking, his wound can be trusted, even if we still don’t share his point of view.

As Christians, we have already learned how to adopt this way of looking at the deepest wounds that come from our dearest friend—our God and Savior. His points of view are always correct, but they don’t always coincide with our own. God’s law has some painful things to say to me.

But he never says them just to hurt us. His wounds ultimately aim to heal. They cut less like a “stab in the back” and more like the skilled surgeon carefully removing the cancer.

And our God is no enemy when he multiplies his kisses. His words of love spoken in the form of forgiveness are always sincere, always friendly, and always spoken with our best interest in mind.

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