If we have not said it ourselves, we have heard it said by someone – true friends do not intentionally hurt one another. At face value, it seems a solid statement but is it really true? Are there times when a true friend intentionally hurts another with good as the end goal? I pondered these questions as I reflected on the canonical proverb: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6, KJV). The Amplified Bible puts the same verse this way, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend [who corrects out of love and concern], but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful [because they serve his hidden agenda].”
Very few people would argue that genuine friends lookout for the best interests of each other. A part of that is affirming, complementing, supporting, protecting, and so on. We expect them to be our biggest cheerleaders. Yet every now and again we need that one person to tell us not what we want to hear, but rather the hard truth(s) we would rather not hear. Fully realizing that they will be hurting our feelings when they speak up or warn us about our behaviour or attitude, these friends also know some will become angry and tell them to mind their own business. Nevertheless, they risk the backlash and speak up anyway, loving us every step of the way. Without fail, they are willing to “wound” our feelings in order to save us from ourselves. It is easy to take these friends for granted and underappreciate their value. However, as Charles Colson reminds us, “True friendship is like sound health, the value is seldom known until it is lost.”
Some friends are enablers. These persons, by their actions, make it easier for someone to continue their self-destructive behaviour(s). In order to keep the friendship and the benefits they receive from it, they look out only for their interests even if it means standing by, watching and doing nothing while the other party rushes along destructive pathways. Enablers often tell us what we want to hear, stroke our egos, make excuses for us, and validate our insecurities. In Proverbs 18:24 we read, “There are friends who point the way to ruin, others are closer than a brother” (NJB). With friends like the former, there is no need for enemies.
Enemies, on the other hand, really do not care about us. Some will even appear to be genuine friends, showering the unsuspecting with flattering words and interest while harbouring ulterior motives. What they take from us pales in comparison to what they give, if anything. Because they come across as loving and caring, it is easy to become a victim of their deceitfulness. Unfortunately, some people who struggle with personal insecurities seek out “friends” like these. They need to remember that “the kisses of an enemy,” as personally gratifying as they might be, “are deceitful [because they serve his hidden agenda].”
Have you taken the time to evaluate your friendships? Just maybe the friend you have been avoiding because they are always in your face challenging your behaviours and attitudes is the true friend you have been looking for. The kisses of the flatterer who feeds and strokes your ego could be your undoing. Joseph Addison was right when he said, “Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joy, and dividing our grief.” In that one sentence is a picture of what genuine friendship looks like. So we are back to where we started: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Can you tell the difference? What kind of friend are you?