Good friends are hard to find. In a good friendship, we seek the best for each other and lovingly speak truth to each other. We are there for each other in difficult times. We sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. This is how the Book of Proverbs describes a good friendship. Not just an acquaintance, but the kind of friend that sticks closer than a brother.
If we are fortunate enough to have a friends like this, we need to guard the friendship and protect it. We should be wise in what we do – and don’t do – to avoid a painful wedge severing a friendship. Three verses in Proverbs give direct advice for guarding friendships:
“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9
To cover an offense means to “put a lid on it,” not allowing it to escalate. In doing so we deal with conflict and choose to forgive, with a goal of restored friendship. On the other hand, friendship is devastated by gossip. When offended, guard the friendship by dealing with it graciously, destroy your friendship by gossiping with others about the offense.
“Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” Proverbs 25:17
We enjoy being with our friends. But if we’re not careful, we can smother them. This proverb challenges us to live with discernment. It’s a delicate balance to spend enough time together to develop the friendship, but also give friends time alone or with others. Appropriate time together is important, but guard your friendships by giving each other space as well.
“Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’ — when you have it with you.” Proverbs 3:28
Generous people make good friends. If you can help, then do so! Proverbs 6, however, warns against loaning money to friends and neighbors. Doing so can quickly jeopardize a friendship. In other words, the path of wisdom is to give generously to friends, but avoid loaning money to them. Generosity builds friendship, debt can destroy it. We should guard our friendships by giving, not loaning.
I found these to be practical, helpful tips for guarding and protecting friendships: cover offenses instead of gossip, enjoy time together but give each other space, and be quick to give and slow to loan. Quality friendships are a rare treasure — guard them!