Previously, we broke down how vulnerability unlocks insecurity. This month, I’m going to challenge you to take a step further. Vulnerability cannot unlock insecurity if you aren’t vulnerable with your friends. You may say, “I'm vulnerable with my friends all the time!” I would ask, “Do they push you towards purpose or do you just like hanging out with them?” What if I told you some of your friends are in the wrong positions in your life; would you believe me?
Before we dive in, I want you to answer three questions: What type of friends do you desire? What kind of friends do you have? Lastly, what type of friend are you?
In 2017, I did a study comparison of two types of friendships found in the Bible, and wrote a message titled “Who Are You Connected To?” The message was about how there are only two types of people in your life: sandpaper or cotton ball. Interesting right? Well... I thought so too until I shared my message in a room full of leaders and bombed. I have been too afraid to speak on it this concept of friendship that God gave me again until now. So, here’s my take two!
Luke 5:17-26 tells of a man who was paralyzed. When his friends heard that Jesus was near, they carried him on a mat to Jesus’ location. When they discovered they could not get to Jesus through the front door, they climbed up on the roof, tore it open, and lowered the man down to lay him at Jesus’ feet. When Jesus saw their faith, He healed the man. You see the type of friends the man had.
Friends like the ones from this Bible passage can be labeled as sandpaper. Sandpaper friends are people who will rub and scratch you until you are polished and in your best form. They will carry you, literally and figuratively. They are friends that don’t allow difficult obstacles to keep them from walking through every step of life with you. These are the types of friends that will push you to purpose and hold you accountable. Sandpaper friends never let you settle. Vulnerability should only happen with this type of friend. I think about the late Chadwick Boseman’s circle of friends. Four years of him fighting cancer, and no one leaked his illness to the press. Four years of him fulfilling his purpose, and his team was right there, encouraging him to keep going and applauding his accomplishments. A strong person cannot continue to be strong without strong friendships.
Now, on the flip side, we have cotton ball friends. Acts 3:2-10 tells how a lame man from birth was carried to the gate called Beautiful every day to beg for money, but never entered the temple. As Peter and John (disciples of Jesus) were walking by, the man opens his mouth and asks them for money. Instead, he receives functioning limbs. He was then able to walk into the temple with them. The lame man had cotton ball friends.
Cotton ball friends are more like associates; they will leave you in your current condition and will not challenge you to do or be better. They will take you to the gate of purpose but won’t carry you through it. Cotton ball friends will have you begging when you should be thriving in your purpose. They will have you thinking that your situation can never change or get better, enabling you to stay crippled where you are. Cotton ball friends are equivalent to surface-level friends and may also include the “yes men” in your life. There is nothing wrong with cotton ball people, but you cannot allow them into your inner circle. Why? Because they can only take you to the gate but don’t have the power to take you into the temple.
This concept is hard to accept. However, reading Relational Intelligence by Dr. Dharius Daniels helped me understand that I have called some people “friend” when they are just associates.
I identify as sandpaper to my core. I have also lost many “friends” because I wanted to carry them, but they did not want to be carried. I know how it feels to run from relationships that challenge mediocrity. I, too, have been in the position where I only wanted to be told good things about myself. It feels good when someone always agrees with you, even if you know you are wrong. However, I could not go from existing to living until I decided I would no longer accept friendships that pacified me. Now, all of my friends are sandpaper. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, it’s mentally and emotionally draining, it’s hard... but purpose hurts. It helps to have people in your life who can handle this reality.
I have a friend that is a business partner who I called back in 2018 and gave her my concept for Transform U. We discussed it briefly on and off, but we both lacked the confidence in our calling for Transform U to move from just a concept. At that time, we were associates because we laid each other at the gate of purpose. Do not get me wrong, we talked almost every day. We complained about our situations and circumstances, but we repeated the cycle of brokenness daily and never tried to correct it for the other person. Fast forward two years after going through a year of separation and growth, Transform U came back up. This time she said, “okay, when is your launch date? We need to have a meeting to strategize your plan. This is the deadline that I need etc." Things began moving so fast that I wanted to get off the ride! When I told her I didn't think this was the right time to launch because of my fear of failing and people’s thoughts, she said, “why are you waiting? If God gave you something to do, and it is needed now, don’t allow fear to stop you.” Every excuse I made, she countered. Every time I wanted to give up, she allowed me to vent but made it clear that quitting was not an option. My ability to be completely vulnerable with her—a sandpaper friend—allowed me to realize I was fighting my purpose with excuses, and that it was time to fully walk in purpose.
My closing question to you is this: Do you have friends that will tear through a roof for you, or will they carry you to the gate and leave you there begging?