Watch The Company You Keep!

Watch The Company You Keep!

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. - Proverbs 13:20 KJV

Have you ever heard the saying; “Birds of a feather flock together?” Essentially, it means the same thing as Proverbs 13:20. People in relationships tend to develop similar traits. When it comes to your philosophy there's probably no greater factor of influence than those around you. Great insight is achieved through conversation and the continuous exchange of ideas.

Ancient Greece was famous for its philosophers who exhibited great wisdom which they shared with the world. Some say they formulated such deep insight from sitting around sharing ideas with each other. The Apostle Paul said; “It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21 NLT).

People teaching other people to think is exactly how cultures are formed. It was their culture in Athens to discuss grand ideas and concepts and with each successive generation they continued that culture. Any group of people who spend significant time together develop certain cultural attributes that are unique to them. Let's take a look at the definition of the word “culture” again.

Culture is defined as:
a) The characteristic features of everyday existence or a way of life shared by people in a place or time
b) The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization

Source - The Merriam Webster Dictionary

How are attitudes, values, goals and practices shared? Through relationships. Nobody figures out their own culture. That's why people in the same social group develop many of the same characteristics. People who impact the world tend to hang around each other. Great minds don't just think alike for no apparent reason, they exchange thoughts through conversations and shared experiences.

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, "Here is something new!" But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don't remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now. - Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 (NLT)

Since nothing exists in a vacuum, the seeds for your philosophy of life came from somewhere. You might pride yourself in being original but you're not. If you had the ability to trace the path of your thoughts you would be able to see the historical significance of past experiences. For instance, several mindsets in Western society can be traced to slavery and beyond.

Many people of African descent might be unaware of the limits they have placed on their philosophies due to relationships with others of previous generations. This generation learned how to think from the previous generation who learned from the one before them and so on. Eventually, we will be able to see that genes were not the only gifts we received from our ancestors. They also passed down their mindsets.

Do not be deceived:"Evil company corrupts good habits." - 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 NKJV

Even if you consider yourself to be a generally good person eventually your life will become a reflection of your inner social circle. The people you keep closest to you will determine the course of your life. As I once told a friend, each person in your life is either part of the problem or part of the solution. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to accept that someone is part of the problem.

Do not be deceived! The Apostle Paul had to say that before he made his point about evil company. Obviously, he knew that in the area of relationships people are constantly deceived. This is one area of the human experience which is fraught with bad decisions and a lack of general common sense. Why? People tend to evaluate relationships with their hearts instead of their minds and that can be dangerous.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? - Jeremiah 17:9 KJV

Probably no area of our lives is more driven by emotions than relationships. Hence, it's a great place for us to be vulnerable to major falsehood. From the outside looking in, it's easy to identify toxic relationships in other people's lives because sometimes they are so obvious. On the flip side, when you're as emotionally involved as the person in the relationship nothing's clear anymore.

The facts may point you in one direction. The truth may be exposed before your eyes. Yet your heart can fool you into believing a lie. If you don't want something to be true then you just won't accept it. Therefore, people tend to let relationships greatly hamper their progress. That continuous exchange between friends can shape your view of the future and take precedence over your own beliefs.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. - Proverbs 27:17 NLT

One of the core characteristics of highly successful people is their relationship choices. In high school I learned that no man is an island. There are no self-made success stories. Everyone's success has been powered by at least one good relationship. Several history makers openly admit to being at least indirectly mentored by someone else.

When you decide to dedicate your life to shaping culture be very selective of your friends. Choose wisely the people who will sharpen and challenge you in important areas. In case you didn't realize it, sharpening is a painful process. When an object like a knife is sharpened what really happens is that fragments of it are forcibly removed by friction to reveal a sharp edge.

A true friend who sharpens your life will help you to remove what is making you dull and ineffective. Through friction, that person will help to expose areas of compromise in your life that keep you locked in a cycle of mediocrity. Sharpening is not supposed to be a comfortable process so friends of that type don't always rub you the right way but the results are undeniable. So how do you pick these friends?

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. - Matthew 7:16-20 NLT

Jesus could not have made that any clearer. You judge people by their actions. That remains true even though God said in 1 Samuel 16:7; “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Since you are not God you don't have direct access to someone's heart and have no option but to judge by what you see.

If you are not careful you may allow those who paint the picture of success through their fancy words and fake reality to lead you astray. Therefore, before you invest time, emotional energy or material resources in any relationship pay close attention to the evidence. Does this person's life over a period of time provide consistently inextricable proof of anything that's being said? If not, leave the person alone.

In sum, before you can go any further on this journey to maximizing your God-given potential stop and evaluate your philosophy of life. First ask yourself the questions; “In my eyes, what does a perfect world look like? What would I be doing if nothing could stop me from making that possibility a reality?” Then ask yourself, “What am I doing about it now?”

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