If you’re reading this then you’re likely interested in personal growth and development. So let me ask you a question: are you where you thought you’d be at this stage in your life? Are you who you dreamt you’d be? (Okay, that’s two questions.)
Chances are, you’re not. At least not entirely. Why do you think that is? Honestly, it could be any number of things but it's most likely due to the relationships in your life.
Your relationships are the number one contributing factor to who you are today. These relationships have shaped your entire perspective on the world. That may seem like a bold statement, but it’s the truth. Our relationships can either set us up for success or have the opposite effect. Case in point: if you’re ever at a professional networking event, chances are you will try to avoid being associated with people you know will damage your reputation. So, if you’re not achieving your goals, it may be time to reevaluate the people closest to you—the ones impacting your decisions, influencing how you treat others, and who are privy to private information.
I’m not about to list all of the possible desirable traits an individual could or should have. And I’m not saying we should only seek out perfect people as friends (spoiler alert: those people don’t exist). However, if you’re looking for a really good starting point, I’ve narrowed my list down to just three primary attributes. These are qualities I look for in anyone I’m accepting into my inner circle of friends and what I’ve tried to teach my kids to value in their relationships as well.
“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” Proverbs 28:26
It’s common practice in the business world to surround yourself with a team of people who are smarter than you. But possessing smarts doesn’t always mean you’re wise. The definition of wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment (and I would add knowing how to apply those things in the real world).
We’ve all had that friend who is loyal and fun to hang out with but has awful ideas. It’s okay to have these types of friends, just be cautious how much access you give them to the most intimate parts of your life. We will all have seasons of life that will demand hard or confusing choices. When you’re living it and caught in the moment, it’s often difficult to see the forest for the trees. During these times we need sound, rational advice. We need people to help us see things clearly. We need close friends who possess wisdom, know how to use it, and aren’t afraid to share it.
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." 1 Peter 3:8
There have been plenty of times when I’ve been upset at someone and, because I’m human, let that anger cloud my attitude towards the person I felt may or may not have wronged me. For many people who don’t have good friends with big hearts willing to step in and help redirect those feelings, that anger can fester into long term bitterness. That’s a very unhealthy place to be. Fortunately for me, in those times I've had people close to me that recognized what was happening in my heart and (using their wisdom) were able to get me to look at the situations differently.
In one particular case, my eyes were opened to the possibility that the person who I felt had wronged me might be going through their own trials in life. This led me to rethink the entire situation and I quickly realized that I was not demonstrating much compassion of my own.
I took a new, compassionate approach with the person I was having an issue with and found out that they indeed were dealing with a stressful situation at home. I had no idea, nor would I had if it were not for the wise counsel of a friend with a compassionate heart.
"A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret". Proverbs 11:13
You would have an awfully hard time convincing me that trust isn’t the single most important quality of a good friend. It’s impossible to have a strong, lasting, or meaningful relationship with anyone you cannot trust.
Of course, there are varying degrees of trust and it must be earned over time. I trust my dog not to eat my youngest child but I don’t trust him around my neighbor’s rabbit. If I send my daughter to the store with a fifty dollar bill to pick up some groceries, I trust her to bring me my change and a receipt but I don’t trust her to pay my bills or manage my finances.
The ultimate degree of trust deals with matters of the heart. These are the most personal and intimate aspects of our lives. To divulge such matters require vulnerability and the utmost level of trust in the person which we are confiding. When we open ourselves like a book, we must do so with extreme caution. Not everyone, even people we’ve known for a long time, is emotionally or spiritually mature enough to handle the responsibility of guarding our most precious thoughts and feelings.
On the flip side, if we find ourselves in the role of confidant, we need to immediately recognize this and acknowledge its significance. If you don’t think you’re up to the task, be honest about it. But if you are and accept the responsibility, you must live up to the promise. Broken trust is nearly impossible to repair.
Now that you have a simple blueprint for establishing a solid inner circle, don’t put off making changes. Make a list of the people you consider to be your closest confidants, then compare them against these three traits: wisdom, compassion, and trust. Do they all measure up? You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.
Questions to ponder:
If you’ve identified people who may be great friends but aren’t a fit for your inner circle, what are some ways you can subtly pivot those relationships without sacrificing them altogether?
I’d love to hear your comments. If you know someone who could benefit from these thoughts, please share this post with them!