What Might Be In the Way of Your Friendships: Drew Hunter
Friendship hasn't always been this hard. Author Drew Hunter looks at historical friendships, and some of the ways we get it wrong.
Just thinking about the marks of friendship and what real friendship is, just apply that directly to marriage. And so think, “Have I been expressing affection? Do I let Christina know that I love her, and do I show that with my words, my actions, how I care for her? Does she know in her bones that I love her?” -- Drew Hunter
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Friendship hasn’t always been this hard. Author Drew Hunter looks at historical friendships, and some of the ways we get it wrong.
What Might Be In the Way of Your Friendships: Drew Hunter
FamilyLife Today® National Radio Version (time edited) Transcript
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What Might Be in the Way of Your Friendships
Guest: Drew Hunter
From the series: Made for Friendship (Day 2 of 2)
Air date: September 1, 2023
Drew: Just thinking about the marks of friendship and what real friendship is, just apply that directly to marriage. And so think, “Have I been expressing affection? Do I let Christina know that I love her, and do I show that with my words, my actions, how I care for her? Does she know in her bones that I love her?”
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: So you remember Paul Early?
Dave: A guy I met playing pick up basketball. Long story, he didn’t really have a great home life, ended up living with us, single guy and now he’s married with kids. It’s awesome. Unbelievable story but he became a really close friend, probably 30 years younger than me, 20 years younger than me?
Ann: Maybe 20.
Dave: And so, he’s almost like a son. But one day we’re in our kitchen and Paul comes over and gives me this really tight hug and you know his beard is right by my, my, my cheek.
Ann: I watched this, and you were so uncomfortable.
Dave: I remembered he hugged me really tight and said, “Dave Wilson I just, I love you. Thank you for impacting my life,” and then he won’t let go. [Laughter] And so he says, “Hey, this is making you uncomfortable isn’t it?” and I’m like, “Well yes a little.” And then he squeezes harder, and he won’t let go. He goes, “You got to embrace this. This is just, you know, me saying you’ve been an important man in my life,” and I’m like I remember thinking that really felt uncomfortable and I shouldn’t be uncomfortable.
Ann: Why do you think it was uncomfortable?
Dave: I think obviously, you know my background. I never had a dad. My family never hugged.
Ann: Your mom kissed--
Dave: Your family hugged.
Ann: –your mom kissed you on the lips all the time.
Dave: Yes, I thought it was – I always hated that.
Dave: I liked it, but I didn’t like it especially [Laughter] when friends would come over and she’d kiss them. It was uncomfortable. But I thought it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Paul, a young man, was mentoring me, teaching me this shouldn’t be that bad, an uncomfortable thing. As a man and even as a father of sons I’ve tried to be better.
Ann: We walked into the studio this morning and [Laughter] Ric grabbed you and hugged you real tight.
Dave: He said let me give you an uncomfortable hug. [Laughter] And I’m like, “Do you know what we’re talking about today?” He’s going to be editing this program later. But we’ve got Drew Hunter in the studio for day 2. Drew wrote a book about friendship, that we are actually created by God for friendship. You hear me talk about this. How does that hit you? As a man is that something that’s uncomfortable for you?
Drew: The story you just shared?
Dave: Yes, or some friend hugging you?
Drew: Yes. it’s not--
Drew: –anymore. I think it would have been at one time.
Dave: So, you’re more mature than me at a young age. [Laughter]
Drew: Well, I think I’ve just recognized how important encouragement, affirmation, honesty, expressed affection is for human relationships and for friendship and for men. So that’s actually I think probably the lack of those things is a reason, one of the reasons contributing to why friendships can stay so tepid and superficial, because we don’t have that kind of open honesty and transparency about how we actually feel about one another and care about each other.
Dave: Yes, which is actually, it’s a beautiful thing.
Ann: Yes, Drew you’re a dad of four boys.
Ann: And you’re a pastor in Zionsville, Indiana. Your oldest son is 12.
Drew: Mmm hmm
Ann: Are you still hugging him a lot--
Ann: --and will there ever be a day that you won't?
Drew: No, I hope not.
Drew: No, I want to have them filled with love and affection, so tell them I love them often. Of course I want to express that in all of life and yes, plenty of big hugs.
Dave: You know we had your friend Dane Ortlund on.
Dave: We’ve had him on several times on FamilyLife Today and we’re going to play a clip because he, I don’t even remember what we were interviewing him about that day, but he makes a comment about this thing that’s pretty beautiful and I’d love to hear your thoughts--
Drew: Yes, sure--
Dave: –because you know Dane.
Drew: –One of my closest friends.
Dave: Yes, so it’d be fun for you to hear this clip.
Dane: I’m 43, my dad is 72. To this day when I walk into my parent’s home in Franklin, Tennessee he gives me a big hug. Maybe it lasts a few seconds too long [Laughter] I’m kidding. It’s a real hug, like most of the men in my church, when I give them a hug, we’re both kind of like let’s release really fast here, [Laughter] before this gets awkward. Give a good hug and like you’re communicating I have sincere affection for you.
Drew: Yes, I resonate with that, and I’ve hugged Dane many times and he’s a man that actually models encouragement, expressed affection, better than most people I know. He’s modeled that for me really well also.
Ann: I like the legacy of his dad doing that and then he’s just carried it on.
Drew: Yes. It’s a picture too that as I think about my boys, I’m their father, but ideally what father/son relationships can turn into and mother/daughter, mother/children, father/children, is into friendship--
Drew: –as they grow older. Obviously nothing ever is going to change about the parent dynamic, nor should it. But a layer added to that is friendship and so that’s what Dane’s expressing with his dad as well. I look forward to my boys growing into my closest friends as well over time.
Ann: I led a Bible study with the Detroit Lions’ wives for about 35 years and there was this one woman, Yvonne, that she would host this Bible study. And the Bible study for the women kept growing and growing. I was watching Yvonne and every time someone would come in the door, and mind you, these women are from all over the country. They don’t know each other. They’ve just followed their husbands to Detroit, of all places to live. But they would walk through the door and Yvonne would have this huge smile. She’d see them, and she’s from Hawaii, and so every time she would kiss them on the cheek, she’d hug them, and everyone felt like, “Ah, this is the best place in the world,” and they wanted to be her friend because of her open affection and love for them.
Drew: Mmm hmm
Dave: It’s interesting I was thinking the same thing during that sort of season of our ministry with the Detroit Lions. We had a quarterback come into our locker room, and you know honestly, an NFL locker room is not a place with a lot of hugs [Laughter] unless you’re winning. You know after a game there’s a lot of hugs. But there was this one quarterback Josh McCown who’s now a coach in the NFL--
Ann: Oh yes.
Dave: --and he was such a lover of people. He was a joy bringer.
Ann: He reminds me a little of Dane actually.
Dave: Yes he does.
Dave: He’s a man of God, a man of the Word, and he came in Detroit just one season and another quarterback came in the same year, John Kitna, and that was our starter and our backup and those two men of God, had this unique ability in our locker room. I used to comment about those years. The whole locker room tilted toward their lockers because John was a strong man of the Word. He had a Bible as big as this table [Laughter] in his locker and Josh was a man of the Word as well. And yet he had this tender, loving affectionate love for the men. We baptized 27 players that season.
Ann: And they were really good friends.
Dave: They were great friends. But as I think about that season, I think a lot of it was John’s strong, courageous, commitment, but Josh’s tender love for the locker room.
Dave: And it was this friendship thing you’re talking about, that we’re made for friendship and even NFL macho men who you think don’t want friendship, they are little boys inside who you think don’t want friendship, they are little boys inside that are longing for another man to see them and acknowledge them and want to have a relationship with them.
Drew: Right. Yes.
Dave: Is that what God designed us for, is that what you’ve seen?
Drew: Yes, absolutely. Even your story reminds me that this isn’t for like certain personality types. It’s not like, “Oh that guy’s good at friendship, that’s for him.” Or that, “He’s really good at encouraging people.”
Well sure some people can be way out in the lead doing it well but Romans 12 says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” That’s expressing esteem for one another. That’s what it means to show honor and every Christian is called, in any room that we’re ever in. We’ll walk out and someone will have won, they will have outdone showing honor. Every Christian is called to pursue being that person, who, not like we need to--
Dave: Yes, competition.
Drew: –feel like we’re better people, right? But there is a godly sense of competition in the sense in every gathering someone’s going to have shown the most honor to others and we should all be striving to do that. And so, some people are better than others, but we shouldn’t see that as that’s just their thing. That’s not comfortable for me.
Ann: Yes. that’s good.
Drew: We all can grow into. we should all. I just think there’s so many cultural influences that keep people, and men, from being able to look another man in the eye, and say, “I love you,” and, “I respect you. Let me tell you something that I appreciate about you that you did for me. I don’t know if you noticed that I knew that, but that meant a lot to me.” That kind of sharing it’s been very rare in our culture. I think we shouldn’t take that as just reflective as what the way the world should be.
This is the way it is right now, but how it should be is expressing honor, affirmation, encouragement. In fact, I read a book called The Overflowing of Friendship by a historian, who’s just studying letters between men in the early founding era of America. And he says he reads the letters to his students now and their jaws drop, because they can’t imagine what it would be like to have this kind of affection and encouragement expressed to one another. Because in our world we’ve so sexualized relationships
that we just assume if you’re saying really kind, affectionate things to one another there must be something else going on.
Drew: He just says not at all. There is not a hint of that in these letters and in these relationships. This is just men expressing love and affection and care for one another. We see that in David and Jonathan--
Ann: That’s what I was going to say.
Drew: –and the apostle Paul. They kiss each other probably on the check with a cultural greeting. They’re crying when they leave each other. The Bible calls us, all Christians, to encourage one another.
Ann: What’s the culture Dave? We were somewhere where the men wherever they go they hold hands.
Drew: Yes there’s, there’s places like that.
Dave: Yes. I mean it’s true when I’ve been in the bush in Africa.
Drew: Mmm hmm
Dave: They do that.
Ann: –in Kenya.
Dave: It’s just their community. It’s nothing sexualized about it at all.
Dave: It’s exactly what you just said. I know in the last few years that the guys that I have friendships with around the country, some of them former NFL Detroit Lion guys, when we hang out, we always say, “Hey, I love you.” Twenty years ago, I didn’t say that but it’s a good thing to say to a friend and you obviously as a dad to your children.
Drew: Yes. Right.
Dave: It’s a good thing.
I want to hear you talk about your subtitle How a Friend Doubles Our Joy and Halves Our Sorrow. Talk about that.
Drew: Yes. So that line is somewhat modified from JC Ryle, who put it similarly and he was kind of picking up a phrase that through history was kind of rolling through the ages. The way that he put it is he says, “This world is a dark place, it’s a lonely place, it’s a disappointing place.” He’s just recognizing the reality of sin and sadness in our life. But then he says, “The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our troubles and doubles our joys.”
What I love about that is both its realism and life is hard. We all know this world. It’s lonely, disappointing. But then God has shines the light in and the brightest beam is friendship. Which is, if that’s true and I think it is, both friendship with the Lord Jesus and one another. Then I want in on that. The benefits of that is this halving our troubles and sorrows. So, cutting those in half and then doubling our joys. That’s been my experience.
Any burden I’m going through, if I’m going through it with someone who knows me and loves me - just even them caring about me through this - lifts the load off my shoulders, cuts it. I’ve been through stuff in my life where I think if I didn’t have those close friends with me, I don’t know how that would have turned out, or what I would have done. There’s no way I could have gotten through that.
Then doubling the joys - everything is better in life with friends. There are so many experiences in life that I’ve had, where if you remove friends from those experiences, and you can say oh that was great, you went to this place, you saw those mountains. You experienced that, yes. But if you take my friends out of that experience, I wouldn’t be talking about it as an amazing memory.
Drew: It’s friendship that doubles those joys and just makes life better. So, when you ask me, “What’s best in life?” I’m going to start naming people for you because that’s what’s best in life.
Ann: That’s really good. I’m thinking about Michelle, and I have some really pretty amazing friends, and Michelle had this shepherding gift too. When my sister died, I walked into my house after the funeral and my house was full of flowers, everywhere, and Scripture everywhere. And I think of just how she was there.
Ann: She was there sitting, listening, being there, sending me Scripture. And then when I turned 40, this is pretty remarkable, do you remember this, Dave?
Dave: Oh yes.
Ann: She contacted 40 friends, and now if it’s 40 you know they’re not super, super close, but 40 friends of mine, and so for 40 days before my birthday she had someone give me a gift for 40 days. It was the most amazing birthday ever.
Ann: A friend is thinking about you, and that’s what I thought. She’s thinking about me. The day before each one of our sons got married, it’s making me teary, she would always give me this long letter of how she saw me parent that son and how she was inspired by it. And I think back on some of the greatest moments of my life, it was Michelle creating these incredible times. I don’t think, as you said, my life has been so much richer with her. And Dave, like he’s my best friend, but I also need other women beside me.
Dave: Yes, when her sister died, I did the funeral. I’m the pastor in the family so I’m standing up in front of her four boys and her husband and Ann’s dad. You’re looking at all these people in your family. And all of a sudden the back door of the church opens and what five or six of our closest friends from Michigan walk in.
Dave: And what you said, there was sorrow, but somehow that halved it. It was just so good to have community in the middle of a valley. That’s what you’re talking about.
Drew: Yes, your story about your friend having those 40 notes reminds me too Christina who, who—so your question earlier if I have a best friend, it’s actually her--
Ann: –your wife.
Drew: –yes, not my only friend but best friend. I had just turned 40 a few weeks ago and she contacted a number of my friends and had them just write a note to me, just expressing some memory or appreciation that she compiled into a little book. And I was actually having kind of a rough day. Turning 40 hit me in ways I wasn’t prepared for.
Dave: It’s a hard one, isn’t it?
Drew: It is, and I usually do a pretty good job [Laughter] of like anticipating things. Watching people kind of go through things so I’m not kind of caught off guard. It, it hit me hard and then I opened that book and started reading things and I was in tears.
Drew: It took awhile to get through it. But, it was so meaningful and actually it just gave me so much hope for the next ten years to think so many of these rich relationships I have and the memories they shared were from the past ten or fifteen years, and the next ten or fifteen, Lord willing, can be just as rich. So, it’s really meaningful and gives - it’s added so much. That’s the joy in life what God gives us through the people.
Ann: And I like that you talk about marks of a friendship. I don’t think we think about that often. We think it should just be natural and how do you become a good friend? But talk about being a consumer friend - that consumer friendship, what’s that mean?
Drew: Yes. If you kind of contrast consumer friendship with what we could call committed or covenantal friendship - so David and Jonathan make a covenant of friendship. I don’t think we all need to make covenants of friendship, but to get to something that’s a contrast with how a friendship is normally experienced by some people.
Consumer friendship is the idea your friendship is there to be used by you, right? When you want something from them you can go to them. And so people today - networking is huge, right? People can turn friendship, and make networking and friendship the same thing in their life. They just see everyone as a potential for something else. Using for a good time, and when things get hard in that person’s life then they don’t show up.
They aren’t going to call them because they’re not deep and connected and they haven’t had a relationship that would be comfortable stepping in in hard times and or suffering. So that’s consumer friendship. It’s like consuming goods. When they’re useful you have them. When they’re not you discard them, and you move on. And in Proverbs it talks about that, talking about how people treat those with money. The rich have many friends--
Drew: –the poor have their friends even leave them, right? That’s consumer friendship. Covenantal or committed friendship means, like Proverbs 17 says, “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”
So even in the hardship you don’t forsake your friend. In fact, Proverbs says do not forsake your friend or your father’s friend and the context of that Proverb is calamity coming into someone’s life. So, your friend loses his job, is diagnosed with cancer, sinks into depression, what do you do? Well Proverbs says the one thing you can’t do is forsake them. You move closer. You express solidarity with them in that. I remember I was going through a really hard time at one point and in fact Dane, he knew I was going through this hard time, and he just showed up one day--
Ann: –at your door?
Drew: –actually at my church. It was Sunday. He drove by and just stood next to me, or stood behind me. Gave me a hug and then we had lunch and then he went back because he just knew I was having a hard time in life and so he just showed up. I’ll never forget that - deeply meaningful. So that’s a covenantal friend, that’s a committed friend in the good times and the bad times expressing love and solidarity and staying with that person.
Job’s friends are a bad example in so [Laughter] many ways, but they had a decent start. It looks right.
Drew: They showed up. They sat with him. They wept with him.
Dave: And then they said things. [Laughter]
Drew: Yes, maybe don’t say things if you don’t know what to say, right?
Dave: How do you know as I’m thinking of a husband and a wife because you talk about you and Christina are great friends.
Dave: Ann and I are great friends. How do you build a great friendship in your marriage? Because not a lot of marriages have that.
Drew: Right. Yes. Maybe a first step is if you recognize you don’t have that, just acknowledge that together and just speak openly about what you wish it could be and own your own shortcomings in that.
I think just thinking about the marks of friendship and what real friendship is, just apply that directly to marriage. And so think, “Have I been expressing affection?” Do I let Christina know I love her, and do I show that with my words, my actions, how I care for her? Does she know in her bones that I love her? And it’s obvious that I do. Not some -–oh I know he loves me, but its… Well, you need to feel it. It’s obvious.
Communication, transparency is a mark of friendship, so just speaking openly and honestly about our own weaknesses and shortcomings. 1 Jonn 1:7 calls us to “Walk in the light. Walk in the light as He is in the light.” So that’s not walking in perfection. The context of that is actually walking just in honesty, it’s coming out of hiding. So, is there some sin in your life or a collection of sins, or struggles that you have that you don’t bring to your spouse? Walking in the light is coming out of hiding, out into the light and what 1 John 1:7 says is out there is real forgiveness, felt forgiveness, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness and real friendship - fellowship with one another.
Felt forgiveness, real friendship in marriage happens through walking in the light together, confessing sin, being open, knowing each other, not treating each other as a consumer either but a committed friend, caring for each other, serving in those ways. Jesus is the perfect friend, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Love is affectionate, committed, self-sacrificial. Serve in love, confess and apologize when you don’t. Be quick to apologize, quick to repent, quick to forgive. They go on and on all these things that friendship needs to be in there as well. Taking the first step is owning your own part of that and seeing that you are the problem.
Ann: That’s good. I like thinking about that conversation with a husband or wife of saying, “I’d love us to be even better friends what do you think that could look like?” Or “what could we do to become better friends?” And I would add one more. Have fun together.
Ann: You and Christina are about to have a few days together off just having fun and that is another thing that is a magnet. It draws you close to one another that fun. This has been great.
Dave: Yes, and I would just end with this. Listening to what you just said Drew, and reading your book. I am such a blessed man because my best friend is sitting right next [to me].
Ann: You’re my best friend too.
Dave: You are such a great friend.
Ann: You are too.
Dave: You love me. You speak truth to me. I am so thankful.
I’m sure you feel the same way about Christina. Not all men or spouses get that.
Drew: Yes, right.
Ann: But you can get it. If you’re not there you can get it.
Dave: It’s a lot of work.
Drew: You can get there.
Dave: God wants you to have it, but it’s on us to pursue it and do the marks of friendship that you talked about.
Shelby: Pursue it with your spouse because if he or she is not already, your best friend could be living right under your roof, wearing the ring you put on their finger when you got married. I am so blessed to call my wife Rachel my best friend and live with all the eye rolls from my kids when I say that. She is my best friend and I love it.
I’m Shelby Abbott. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Drew Hunter on FamilyLife Today. Drew has written a book called Made For Friendship: The Relationship that Halves our Sorrows and Doubles our Joys. You can find a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. That 800, ‘F’ as in family ‘L’ as in life and then the word TODAY.
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