Reading: Communicate that you are friends
Philemon 1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend...
1. Communicate that you are friends.
There is nothing more powerful in building a relationship than calling someone "my friend.”
And yet these words are rarely used.
Most of us do not have very many friends. Perhaps we made a few friends in our school days. But many of those friendships have dissolved with the passing of time and places. We make friends in our workplaces, but when jobs change and transfers are had, these friendships also don't last long.
I read somewhere that for the average man his spouse is his best friend. With so many marriages ending in divorce, this fact seems somewhat depressing.
But why does it have to be this way? Why don't we make friends with a lot of people? Not everyone is going to be your best friend or maybe even a close friend, but why can't lots and lots of people receive the label "friend”?
Perhaps the problem is we have too high of a standard for the label "friend.”
We think, perhaps idealistically, that friends should have a lot in common and do a lot of things together. Friends should have a long history. Friends should be few, exclusive, and rare.
Some people secretly feel that friendship should be an "understood” thing between people, and that the words "you are my friend” should not be spoken.
But why should we be so limiting with the"friend” status or the friend label for that matter?
What if the only criteria for friendship was the desire to bless someone?
"I am interested in your well-being as well as my own. And sometimes I must sacrifice to help you out and sometimes you must sacrifice to help me out. And often doing things together is a blessing for both of us.”
Paul writes to Philemon and, in the first sentence, calls him a beloved friend.
What is Paul communicating to Philemon by calling him a friend?
That the issue they are about to discuss is between friends.
That they are not enemies where one is against the other.
That they are not competitors where one wins and the other loses.
That as friends each should have a desire for outcomes that benefit both.
That both, to some degree, should be willing to sacrifice his rights for a greater good.
Are these not good things to communicate to a person with whom you are about to have a delicate and challenging discussion?
"Okay,” you may be wondering, "but isn't calling someone a friend for the purpose of gaining some advantage in a negotiation or issue manipulation?”
Yes, it can be. But there is another side to calling someone friend. If I call you friend, not only will you be more inclined to listen, negotiate, compromise, and even, perhaps, give in to my point of view, but - and here is the point - I will be more inclined to do the same for you.
Friendship is a two-way street. I help you. You help me. I pay for the dinner at the restaurant one time, and you get it the next.
So why not try expanding the borders of those you call a friend? Pick out someone who is not that close to you, and find an excuse to call him your friend.
How? Shake this person's hand the next time you meet him or her, and say, "It is great to see you, my friend.” Or do it in an email: "Hey, friend, let's do lunch this week.” Don't make a big deal about it, but do it.
Then stay in contact with this person for a couple of weeks and see what happens to the relationship.
Try it on your boss. A coworker. Someone at church that serves on the same committee that you do.
Why not even try it on your spouse? If your spouse has never heard you use the word "friend” to describe your relationship, try it. You will see a difference in your relationship.
Next, try it with your kids, the neighbor next door, and even the mail carrier.
1.Why do you think Paul starts his letter to Philemon calling him "a dear friend” or more literally, "dearly beloved”?
2.Why do you think that people do notoften call each other friend?
3.When in your life have people you considered your friends come through for you? What did they do?
4.If you were to call someone a friend, what would that mean?
5.Why is it sometimes difficult to make and maintain a friendship?
6.What sometimes makes solving a problem harder to do among friends?
7.What advantage do friends have in solving a problem that arises between them?