The Protection of GuardrailsWith all of our young people returning to school in recent weeks, I thought it a good time to revisit the lesson with the above title from our Guardrails on the Road of Life series from last year. From the youngest elementary student to the college senior, who you choose as your close and intimate friends will profoundly impact your life.
Paul told the truth when he said, "None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself" (Romans 14:7). We need friends — good friends — to provide a voice of reason and influence of strength. That is why "two are better than one … If they fall, one will lift up his companion" (Ecclesiastes 4).
Our key verse is Proverbs 13:20. It contains a promise, "Walk with the wise and become wise." And it contains a warning, "A companion of fools suffers harm." Notice carefully — the warning is not, "A companion of fools will become a fool," but "a companion of fools will suffer harm." So for all of us, young and old alike, I want to remind us of the guardrails in friendships that should warn of impending harm.
You hit a guardrail when you realize that your friend's core values are radically different than your own. When it dawns on you that your value system, what you want for your marriage, your finances, your spirituality is different than the direction your friends are traveling — that is a warning sign not to be ignored.
You hit a guardrail when you find yourself trying to defend the wrong behavior of your friends. If you find yourself telling others, "You just don't know them like I do" or "You just don't understand them" — that is a warning not to be ignored.
You hit a guardrail when you feel pressure to compromise. When you feel pressure to accept as right what you have always known to be wrong, to behave in ways you have always considered to be off limits — that is a warning not to be ignored.
You hit a guardrail when you find yourself pretending to be someone other than who you know you are. If your parents or friends are saying to you, "When you are with them you are a different person" — that is a warning not to be ignored.
You hit a guardrail when you hope the people you love and care about the most don't find out where you've been or who you have been with. If you are already formulating a defense of the person or place or situation in case someone does find out, someone does know — that is a warning not to be ignored.
A little self-honesty about these matters would go a long way in keeping us from "suffering harm" through this school year and the years to come.