After the men had gathered for their last supper together, Jesus made a shocking statement to his followers. In the light of who he was–mighty God, the Messiah, the Christ and Savior of the world–Jesus’s announcement is a total departure from the relationship mankind had previously experienced with God. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13 and 15).
As we contemplate and meditate on this astonishing declaration, our hearts must swell with joy and acceptance of our new exalted position of Friends of God. This friendship must change us, however. We come to understand the depth of the riches of God and the depth of his love for all people, releasing us to love in a new way. Friendship has become a holy endeavor, initiated by God and perfected in His love and sacrifice.
With that in mind, as we approach people, there are some caution signs attached to friendship. Here are nine Don’t’s of developing a committed friendship.
1. Don’t wait for others to reach out to you. Our lives must be an extension of God’s heart that is always ready to receive the broken-hearted, the lovely and the ugly alike.
2. Don’t share just facts with your friends. Share feelings. Let people know YOUR joys and sorrows. Your hurts and misgivings.
3. Don’t expect everyone to like you. I learned that people either love me or hate me. There is no in-between. This became a valuable lesson in maturity. I’m no longer hurt by folks who don’t know me but who reject me. It’s a fact of my life. And harshly speaking, it is a fact of your life. Not everyone wants to be friends with us.
4. Don’t expect your friend’s friend to be your friend.
5. Don’t be quick to voice your own opinions. Some–perhaps many–things are best left unsaid.
6. Don’t harbor unforgiveness or bitterness over offenses. Peel away the hurt of a careless remark. Stomp until dead the pains of neglect that come into every friendship.
7. Don’t share negative information about others.
8. Don’t expect a friend to be your source for love, significance or security. Only God can give you that.
9. Don’t let a friend take the place of the Lord.
In dealing with persons who are mentally challenged, it is vital to understand that they often do not have the cognitive ability to understand the fine nuances of friendship. This means that certain boundaries may be necessary for you to set. In the opposite direction, you may experience that their responses to your friendship overtures may be overlooked. Friendship with a person with special needs is a great privilege and joy. Their friendships are worth taking the time and energy to develop.