An article titled “Friends Who are Good for Your Brain” caught my attention this week. The BBC post postured that we can only process so many things so we develop shortcuts to help us cope. The downside is that approach limits creativity and growth. One of their solutions was one I wholeheartedly agree with and have written about in these musings.
Spend time with people who look and think differently than you.
“When people are exposed to a more diverse group of people, their brains are forced to process complex and unexpected information. The more people do this, the better they become at producing complex and unexpected information themselves. This trains us to look more readily look beyond the obvious – precisely the hallmark of creative thinking.”
Philip Yancey points out that getting out of your comfort zone is really important for followers of Jesus.
“As I study the Pharisees, and Jesus’ strong words against them in Luke 11 and Matthew 23, they seem to have one basic problem: they hang around other Pharisees all day. Hence they start competing with each other, focusing on trivialities, missing the broad sweep of God’s love. Probably the best defense for the church is to follow the Great Commission. I’ve found that evangelical Christians who have a homosexual sibling or first cousin look at the issue differently than those who don’t know any gay people. I’ve found that people who actually work in a drug rehab center or homeless shelter see those people differently than people who hear politicians talk about them. We need to go out into the world and get our hands dirty, and if we do so, we’ll see a world thirsty for grace.”
The article on friends who are good for the brain prompted a follow up question. What kind of friends are good for your heart and soul?
The advent of social media has accentuated the difference between friends and friendships. I have hundreds of Facebook “friends,” befriended with a click. It is easy to have friends who know what you like, listen to, and read. But it is hard work and risky to cultivate friendships with people who know who you are when the facade breaks down.
Real friends are a treasure that we push way too far down the priority list. We sure think a lot about pursuing other treasures on our list. Too many of us don’t prioritize the importance of building real friendships. Honestly, when you have a real crisis, would you rather have a promotion or a pal you could lean on? When heartaches come, would you prefer an award or an ally to walk with you?
In the grand scheme of life, you will have just a handful of real friends. Friends whom you can tell anything or say anything to and not be rejected. Friends who will drop everything when you need them. It is a risk to allow others to see who we really are and it can only happen in a sacred room of trust and grace. But when you allow the mask to drop and realize you are still loved it is remarkably healing.
This thought from Henri Nouwen captures the heart of friendship.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
You can’t force that. But you can help the process by being a friend. If I am receiving grace I must also give it. If I welcome the generous gift of grace I must become more generous. If I accept the gift of forgiveness I must forgive. If I marvel at God’s unfailing love I must also love others. That is what the doubting world is looking for from the church. Grace, forgiveness and love.
As Jesus faced the horror of the Cross He offered this command to His disciples.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 14, NLT)
Jesus told us to love one another and trust Him for the rest. Pray to become a friend who focuses on the grace gifts of Jesus.
All friends are a blessing. Real friends are a treasure. And those friends are good for the heart and soul.