Twin Sons From Different Mothers

When the character of a man is not clear to you,
 look at his friends.
Japanese Proverb

There are three things that will shape your life: the events that happen to you, the people you associate with, and the books that you read. We have limited control over the first, and complete control over the latter two. We tend to emulate those who are around us. If your friends are smart, honest, generous, healthy, kind and cheerful, you will tend to follow their example.

You should try to associate with people who are equal to or better than you in character. Some people do the opposite, so they can cultivate a feeling of superiority. But, this can have significant long-term consequences, particularly in the areas of ethics and integrity. We often look to friends to rationalize our own behavior, and dishonest friends reinforce, rather than reduce, temptation.

I've been fortunate to have several best friends in my life, including Jim Lewis. Jim and I say that we are "twin sons from different mothers," a phrase that is especially apparent when you see us together, since Jim is African American and I am Caucasian. We have known each other for over fifteen years, and share similar views on faith, family, friends, leadership and character. We live the phrase from Proverbs that "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." We can spend hours talking together about different topics. Often, the topics deal with making ethical decisions, protecting our reputations, and determining God's plan for our lives. We know that no topic is off-limits, and that we can be brutally honest with each other. We also look out for each other and our families.

Consult your friend on all things, especially on those which respect yourself. His counsel may then be useful where your own self-love might impair your judgment.

Do you have a friend like this in your life? We can easily deceive ourselves, and need best friends to tell us when we are "smoking our own exhaust." These "honesty sessions" can prevent serious mistakes in our business lives, with our spouses or children, or in the community.

Best friends can hold you accountable, reducing your capacity to be tempted by your weaknesses. They can also "watch your back," letting you know if someone is attacking your reputation. And, if you are attacked, best friends can defend you, and get others to come to your defense.

Finally, best friends add a depth to life, with someone to share your greatest triumphs and your greatest sorrows. During tough times, you have an encourager and, at the peak of success, someone who can bring you back to earth with a gentle landing.

As Francois de La Rochefoucauld stated, "A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire." To fully experience surpassing living, you need to do the work of acquiring the blessing of a best friend.

Action Points
• Review the people with whom you associate. Are they equal to or better than you in character? If not, you may be placed in a situation that drags you down rather than raising you up.
• Do you have a best friend who can keep you accountable? Is there someone who will tell you when you are "smoking your own exhaust"?
• Will someone tell you when your reputation is being attacked? Will they help you defend yourself?
• Are you the best friend to someone else?

Protection of your honor, encouragement in hard times, a richer life

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