I had one of my best friends live with me and my family for about 3 months before we moved out together. During that time he saw how I interacted with my family the good and the bad. I remember one conversation we had when we went out for breakfast. He sat me down, and said: “Ben, you don’t speak to your mum very honourably, and I know you boys think it’s a joke, but I don’t think that’s okay to do.” I instantly felt angry, I thought to myself, “How dare you.” I couldn’t see it at the time behind the anger and defensiveness I felt but my friend was creating for me an opportunity, an opportunity to have a better relationship with my mum.
What I have been reflecting on a lot is the people that I surround myself with. The reason for this is that sociologists argue that you will become like the 5 people that you let invest in you the most. We saw this principle in the story about my mum, where my friend created an opportunity for me to become a certain type of person. I’m sure you would be able to look at your own life and see this principle at work, whether it be through the influence of a spouse, a boyfriend/girlfriend or your closest friends, you would realise that these people are impacting you. Even in the phrases that you say.
We see this principle clearly. The 5 people that you are closest to, create opportunities for who you can be.
Or to say it more succinctly, your community creates your opportunity.
Think about it for yourself, there has most likely been times in your life where your community has provided opportunities for you, whether it was an opportunity to care for others in a homeless shelter, which helped you become more compassionate, or your community created an opportunity for you experiment with illicit drugs leading to many poor decisions and regret.
What we can’t argue is that our community creates our opportunities.
Which is why we must be deliberate, intentional and ruthless about who we call our community.
Now, I can imagine that some of you are sitting there feeling like I am being a bit harsh. Or that I am saying you can’t be friends with heaps of people. Which I am definitely not saying. As a Christian, I know I am called to love others, to share Jesus with them and to help those in need no matter who they are. Yet, what I am encouraging you to do is to be careful about who is in your closest circle. These are the people who create the most opportunity for you and have the biggest impact on your personal growth. Why wouldn’t you be very careful, deliberate and wise about who you invite into your inner circle?
I’ve been reading the book “Greater” by Steven Furtick, and he shares a story in it about when he first gave his life to Jesus. Once he had decided that this was what he was going to do, he sat down with his friends at the time, and told them, he still wanted to be friends, to care for them, to be there when they needed him. He then told them, that he couldn’t go everywhere that they go, or do everything that they are doing because they are going in different directions.
This is a man, who wouldn’t let people stop him from following all that God had for him.
I remember being inspired by a young person who has been a part of my work context, who in front of her peers told the story about how when she came back to her old school, she decided that she would be friends with different people, so that she could have better influences in her life. She realised that her community was creating opportunities for her and that she needed the right opportunities. Not only that but she said something that I think we all need to remember when discerning who we let into our community. She said that when choosing the right people to be in our life, “we shouldn’t feel guilty for making wise decisions.” I know, incredible wisdom from the mouth of a teenager.
We must have the same understanding, we shouldn’t feel guilty for making wise decisions about our inner circle.
Our community creates our opportunities and we have to take responsibility for the community we create around us.
My final thought to leave you with is one that should cause a moment of self reflection for us. While we must be very careful about who we invite into our inner circle, we mustn’t forget that we have a responsibility too. That we must be people who are worth being invited into the inner circle of others. That we are people who create opportunities for those around us to be better, to be people who invite people to be better than they once were, to help them realise potential, value and abilities that they never thought they had. That we would be people who people turn to when they need help, when they need support, when they need that encouragement.
That is also our responsibility, to not just carefully determine who is in our inner circle, creating opportunities for us, but that we are also people who are creating positive opportunities for those around us too.
This week after you have read this, will you please do two things. Firstly, will you have a look at who it is that you are spending the most time with, talking to, being influenced by, and honestly look at the opportunities these people create for you? Are they opportunities to grow, or are they opportunities to stagnate? Then do what you need to do. Secondly, please think about the type of friend you are and the opportunities you are creating for those around you. Are you someone who creates opportunities for others to grow? If you are, think about how you can create even more opportunities for those around you. If you aren’t sure you are, start to think of ways you can help others grow, even through little things like sending an encouraging message to someone every day for a week, whatever it is, start becoming the person you know you need to be.
Never forget that your community creates your opportunities, so don’t feel guilty for making wise choices, don’t feel guilty for changing who is in your inner circle, and make sure you go and create opportunities for others too.
May you keep growing!
Your encourager, your supporter, your biggest fan.