This is another sort of list really but it might be a bit weird if someone ever found it written down so perhaps memorise it! I have learned to understand that there are different types of people in my life; those that drain me and those that fill me, people who bring something to my life and people that take something from me and also people who divide or multiply in my life. I understand that I can't always avoid people that drain me, my job is to love everyone and my desire is to love everyone just as Jesus does. Equally, I understand that life is seasonal and friends that bring something during this season might need to take things from me in the next season. Balanced friendships involve give and take. But there are other people that can be very draining ALL the time and intentionally take ALL the time. Over the years I have learned to limit my time with draining people and I have also learned to seek out people that fill me. Eric and I have one friend in particular that we have known for a number of years and he is totally AMAZING! No matter what is happening in his life or ours he manages to fill us EVERY time we see him. He is so very positive and just so totally amazing.
If ever we are having one of 'those days' we pop over to see him and leave full! Even when we go to his home to give we still end up leaving full. I only hope we are not on his draining people list, ha ha! We have been through all sorts of good and bad times together but no matter what, he has never drained us, only ever filled us.
Even when he has gone through hard times and we had to support him, we still never got drained. Friends like these are rare gems, if you have one or two of them hold on to them.
He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.
This verse says it all – if you choose wise friends you will become wise but if you choose foolish friends you will be destroyed! You can’t get any simpler than that can you?
Cut Off Negative People
If you spend lots of time around negative people, the chances are you will become negative too and quite possibly start to lead a negative life. Depression often stems from some sort of negativity and if you are struggling with depression at the moment please carefully observe the people that you are doing life with. You might find one or two people who are constantly negative and who suck the life out of you. Cut them off! Seriously, don’t feel bad, you may be depressed because of them and there is only one way to find out if this is your root cause.
We had a couple in our congregation who were struggling with all sorts of things. Once we had got to know them and their friends a little better we quickly noticed the common denominator between them all. They were all unhealthy, negative, sensationalist people. We really loved this family so I poured my heart and soul into loving them and trying to help them find their way to freedom and health.
One of the first things we recommended, as you can probably guess, was to cut certain people out of their lives. This was a huge thing to suggest as most of their friends had been in their lives for fifteen to twenty years. However, we still strongly urged that they drastically limited their time with them but preferably cut them off completely, even if only for a season so they could get strong as a family. For a short season of about six months they planted themselves firmly in our Church, they got involved in everything which left very little time for their unhealthy friends. The growth was fantastic and Eric and I were really pleased with how far they had come in such a short space of time. Even their children showed immense growth and health.
Sadly, they had one other thing that they struggled to let go of and that was sensationalism. It was all about the latest move of God and the latest signs and wonders and they quickly got bored with good old fashioned hard work in Church. Sensationalism was also the thread that kept them connected to their circle of negative friends. Much damage was caused through this family bringing many unhealthy Christians into our Church and many new believers in the faith were damaged.
There is a vast difference between a sinner involved in sin and a Christian choosing to stay in sin. We expect sinners to sin, they don’t know any better, but we expect Christians to move forward and grow and when they choose not to, the whole apple cart is upset. After nearly two years of trying to win this family to us and begging them to let go of their unhealthy influences, we lost them. I am one hundred percent confident that if they had cut their unhealthy friends out of their lives for a season, and grew strong in the things of God, they would be flourishing today and perhaps even their unhealthy friends would have seen such a change in them that they would have grown healthy too.
On a more positive note we do have some lovely success stories! There are people in our Church who have agreed that there were people in their lives that were too negative and had a bad influence in their lives. I am pleased to report that several years later they are still with us and have grown strong in the Lord. Now we can confidently send them back into the world from which they came so that they can testify to all the amazing things that God has done in their lives!
They have worked hard for several years to build solid friendships with friends who build their lives with them and as we add unhealthy people to this circle of solid friends we see amazing results. This group of people also serve God with zeal in our Church and understand that it takes a lot of hard work to build an awesome Church. They do see amazing miracles and they do see God move but they don't seek after these things to the point that it becomes an unhealthy obsession. They seek and serve the God of the miracles and not just the miracles and we are so very proud of them for all they have achieved in their lives. Each and every one of them had to start by making a decision about who they were going to be friends with though, have you ever done this?
Ask your friends
Friends and family often see things that you might miss. If you already have a circle of friends that you can trust then ask them about what they think may be your root cause of depression. You might be surprised at what they say and you might find it really helpful. It is worth having a great circle of friends as you will find that they will be essential in you reaching your full potential.
Eric is a great example of this. When I met Eric he was a guitarist in the Hillsong band. Every Sunday I used to watch him play and observe him in the coffee lounge at Church and I grew very fond of him even though we had never met. I got to the point where I had to force myself to close my eyes during worship so that I was actually worshipping God and not just drooling over Eric. I most definitely have the most amazing and hot husband in the whole world.
Oops, sorry let me get back on track here ;) One thing I noticed when Eric and I were dating was that people only saw him as a guitarist. Whenever people had conversations with him it was about his playing and whenever they asked how he was, it was about how his music was going. From the very beginning of my relationship with him I saw more than just a guitarist and after a few months of hearing absolutely everyone in his world only affirming that one thing I became annoyed. I decided to start speaking out the things that I saw in him. At times I would say what a fantastic leader he was and what an awesome man of influence. I would comment on his great capacity to make a difference in this nation and in this world. Many times I would ask him what he dreamed of and if God had done anything special or unusual through him in the past.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know what the ‘more’ was that I did see in him, I just knew that there was so much more to this wonderful man in my life. Years passed by and I continued to speak whatever words I could to encourage him in things other than guitar. Even though secretly I thought he was an amazing guitarist, I really wanted to balance things out so hardly said much about that at all.
Time passed by and he started leading a connect group, his people skills were shocking and I had to coach him every step of the way on how to communicate with people by giving him practical tips as well as saying that he was a great communicator. What I was saying didn’t match the reality of what was actually happening but in my mind I truly did see him as a great communicator.
The Introverted Brazilian
Some more time passed and we planted a Church and I continued to tell him what a great pastor he would be. Secretly I was asking God how on earth he was going to take this very introverted man with a strong Brazilian accent who had never preached in his whole life, and turn him into a great preacher. I really, really couldn’t see how this was going to work but I knew what I had to do! I had to speak it into life and draw his potential out of him. So each time he preached I offered a few practical tips and then encouraged him with how great a communicator he is.
More time passed and he continued to play his guitar in the Church band, but now he was also preaching and leading a Church. At this point I felt free to compliment him on his guitar playing and musical ability as well as his preaching and leaderships skills.
The Powerful Preacher
Now I see some balance in Eric’s life, he is living a life of so much more than he was when we met. I do firmly believe that God placed very special gifts in my wonderful husband and He called me to be a part of the process that drew these gifts out of him. Although Eric had them inside of him he did need a good friend or someone close to him to see his potential and call it out of him with life giving words. Today when I watch Eric preach and lead I am amazed! He is actually a fantastic preacher with a good balance of humour and deep teaching of the Word of God.
Many Sundays I sit there baffled at how God transformed my husband but I also know that he still has a lot more potential inside of him that needs to be released. It’s so important that I remain careful with my words and continue to understand my role in his life. Looking back I can see that if he continued to walk with people who only saw him as a guitarist he might have missed out on all the other stuff that God had placed inside of him.
More importantly he might even have missed out on his dream, the dream that he didn’t even know he had. Eric looked at me a short while ago and said;
“I have just realised that I am living my dream! I didn’t even know that I dreamed of this life but now that I am living it I realise that this is what I was always meant to do. I have been created for this purpose and even if I wanted to stop I don’t think I could.”
Eric is still a brilliant guitarist and still plays in the band whilst training up other musicians. BUT he is so much more than a guitarist now!
Perhaps you don’t have any close friends who love you enough to see that there may be more in you. It is worth carefully observing people in your world and deciding who you would like to be friends with and then choose them as your friend! It may take years of getting to know each other and investing in the friendship but without it you may never reach your full potential. We weren’t created to do life alone. Our relationships are the most important part of life and the older I get the more I see this. I also see how I need to make a decision to be a good friend and to be intentional in building relationships. A good friendship doesn’t just happen.
I Pick You
You may think that I am a bit of a freak but I have told you so much about myself already that I may as well tell you this too.
My best friends are handpicked! I chose them, I approached them and I have never regretted it. The first best friend that I would like to tell you about is Michelle. She is somewhere travelling the world at this point in time but no matter where she is and no matter how long she will be away this time I know that when we get together we will just pick up where we left off.
Michelle and I became friends because I asked her if we could be friends. Yes I know what that sounds like, it sounds like a three year old saying to another three year old, ‘can we be friends?’, nevertheless that’s what I did. She was my connect group leader at the time and I recognised qualities in her that I liked and I wanted to get to know her better.
I emailed her saying that I really admired her and was wondering if she would be interested in getting together from time to time to get to know each other and to pray. I was blunt and straight to the point; I am a very busy person and want a friendship with a God purpose. Small talk and hanging out wasting time talking about nothing didn’t interest me. I wanted a real and deep friendship where we could help each other move forward in the things of God.
Her reply was beautiful! She totally agreed with everything I had said and actually had wanted to approach me for quite a few weeks but didn’t know how to start. We met up for a coffee and haven’t looked back. I love Michelle to bits and I know that I am a better person today because of her friendship.
No One Should Be Lonely
Jane is one of my best friends ever. The way we met was also at a connect group. On one occasion she mentioned how lonely she was so I said that I would love to come visit her. Jane is nearly thirty years older than me and lives nearly an hour away from me. I have never asked her what her first impression was of my offer to visit but she must have thought I was a bit strange.
In my mind though I thought that no one in Church should ever be lonely! I don’t have much money to contribute to someone’s financial needs and I don’t have much else to give but loneliness is unacceptable in Church. This is a need that anyone can meet - no qualification or money necessary.
So we met up for lunch for the first time when I was three months pregnant with Daniel and I continued to travel to visit her every Thursday until it became unwise to drive such long distances with my big bump. We spent Christmas together which was really special and continued to visit each other even though we both moved Churches. Our friendship is very precious to me and I could not have come this far if it weren’t for Jane.
My motivation in being her friend was to serve a need in Church but I have got so much more out of it than I think I ever gave to Jane. Her love and maturity and wisdom have given me such support and strength through these sometimes very tough years.
Some of my friendships have just happened naturally, although I still had to make choices along the way. I allowed them to naturally blossom while I invested in them. It has always been my choice, if I didn’t choose to invest in my friendships they may not be the friendships that they are today.
There are friendships that I haven’t allowed to grow. Once I realised that they were harmful to me and my family I cut them off. It sounds harsh but I don’t want to be a fool and the Bible clearly says that if you walk with the wise you will become wise and if you walk with fools you will be destroyed.[i]
One friendship in particular did cause a lot of depression in me without me even realising it. Somehow this brought a nasty feeling over me and it really affected me badly. After six months of struggling I finally realised that this friendship was the source and as soon as I cut this person and their family off from my life I returned to normal.
I know it sounds unreal but it really did affect me that much. So please hear me and take care in choosing friends. Don’t be scared of asking if you need to or if they are really busy people and you are not sure, find a need in their life and serve the need. I have grown some really good friendships in the past this way. No matter how you go about choosing your friends just make sure that you are choosing and not just letting life choose for you.