To many of us, friendships outside of the relationship we call "marriage" come in dribs and drabs - we have perhaps one or two truly close friendships in the course of our lifetime, those marked by true intimate knowledge of each other and a depth of commitment which spans all the hurdles of how silly we can act on occasion. These relationships matter so much to us - we work to preserve them, defend them, and even bolster them whenever things are little shaky. We also have lots and lots of acquaintance type friendships - those we have fun with, enjoy good times among, and even share in their hardships and worries on occasion. Yet, these are just not at the same level of those we call "best friends". Try hard to do right and you will win friends - scriptural instruction - not scriptural "advice". The difference between the two - one is just an opinion which we can take or leave; the other is a promise based on truth. Some of us don't always "do right", though. In the realm of our "best friends", there is some amount of grace which just keeps us together and might even bind us closer together when we don't always "hit the mark" where is comes to "trying to do right". There is much truth in the wisdom we are exploring today - Do right; Live right; and Act wisely - three truths we need to explore if we are to maintain those very special relationships God has given us on this earth.
Try hard to do right, and you will win friends; go looking for trouble, and you will find it. Live right, and you will eat from the life-giving tree. And if you act wisely, others will follow. (Proverbs 11:27, 30 CEV)
One thing is for sure - we don't need instruction or reminding to "do wrong"! We find our way into the territory of "wrong" much easier than we find our way into the territory of "right"! Why on earth is that? I think it is because we were born pretty egocentric and in being so egocentric from birth, we find the world rotating around us for a good period of time. What parents have a hard time with as we are getting a little older is this idea of helping us to see there are others in our world impacted by our actions! When we won't share, someone is without a toy or piece of the cake. When we refuse to let someone go, they cannot get on with their other tasks which need to be completed. We maintain the "hold" on being the center of our world as long as others will allow it. When someone begins to "push that envelope" and they show us we are definitely NOT the center of attention we think we should be, we get our feelings all in a wad. From early childhood, we have to break the mold of being at the center of life - the world around us needs to be acknowledged, the feelings of others require respect, and the moments of their lives matter as much as ours. So, from an early age, moms and dads everywhere are teaching us to "do right". In essence, they are reminding us to let go of "self" and seek out the opportunities to "make another feel special". I certainly don't think we can learn this lesson too often in life. We all can benefit from a little reminding to "do right" now and again. Doing is the first step toward developing a pattern some call "living".
Unlike "doing" right, living right means we actually find a path which is consistently focused on the right things. We begin to develop patterns of behavior which are marked with less and less self-centered actions. The "doing" becomes a habit - we find ourselves consistently "doing" - not having to "think it through" all the time because it comes more naturally to us now. At first, in every "new habit" we learn in life, there is this starting point we might label as "doing" right. Add up all the "doing" and eventually you find yourself forming the new habit. In time, you don't even think about what it is you are doing because it comes as "second-nature" to you. We don't want to lose sight of the fact it is "second-nature" to us, though! Our "primary-nature" is egocentric. It takes practiced effort to break that mold! This effort will eventually help us develop the habits which become "second-nature" to us and produce a consistency of behaviors which support "other-focused" activities. We find we want to include others in our lives - not because of what we "get out of it", but equally as much by what we can "give back" into those relationships. Live right implies we make consistent choices which benefit not only self, but others, as well.
Most of the Proverbs are dedicated to understanding the differences between unwise and wise actions. The choices we make behind the scenes matter because eventually they reveal themselves for all to see, no matter how well we think we have them covered up! Action comes from thought - we actually have some basis to all we do and how we live because we have been thinking about it for some time! If our actions are a little foolish, they lean toward us not having learned the lesson of "doing" right - we still are a little too egocentric in our focus. We don't see others, nor do we see Christ right there in front of us as we make those unwise choices. If our actions are gravitating toward wiser ones, we might just not fully understand how much those matter, but each wise action leads to the possibility we will act that way again - leading to us letting go of some of our egocentric "doing". Fools are marked by being all over the board in their commitments and even by being a little too egocentric (despite warnings to be otherwise). The wise are marked by the stability and sensibility of their actions - those which are "other-focused", not "self-focused". Wise people see themselves through the mirror of the truth and what is reflected back to them is used to help them lay down the actions which really are not reflecting back Christ in them! Just sayin!