Every workplace is actually a network of relationships between employers, employees, customers and suppliers. This network is made up of many smaller circles of friendship that people form with those who share their outlook on life. We'll inevitably be drawn into one circle or another, either by values we've already formed, or else by a desire for acceptance that can lead us to ignore or compromise the values we'd really like to hold.
This was demonstrated vividly to me by the experience of a young man I know. I’ll call him Jack. He is the son of friends of mine.
Halfway through high school, Jack’s grades began to drop. He started going out on school nights with other kids and he wouldn't do his homework. Finally his parents confronted him about the way he was changing.
“None of the cool kids study," Jack protested, "and I want to hang out with them.”
This new pattern continued for a couple of months until one particular evening when Jack’s parents heard their front door open and close, a car speed off from the driveway, and the door to their son's room open and close. His friends had unexpectedly dropped him off early. The parents said nothing about this incident, but it happened again a few days later, and then again. Finally Jack came to speak with them, nearly in tears.
"I don't think they're really my friends," he said. "They get talking about some cool thing they want to do, and all of a sudden they look at me and say, 'Sorry, we don’t have room for you in the car.' Then they drop me off and they go off and do things without me."
These experiences opened Jack’s eyes. He realized that if his new "friends" didn't care about their studies or other obligations, there was no reason why they should really care about him, either. It all came as a package.
Jack found some other kids who took their studies seriously and had ambitions for their lives, but who also knew how to have fun. He discovered that they treated him with loyalty and respect. When he started hanging out with them, he began to pick up those characteristics himself. His grades went back up. Last I heard, his life was heading in a great direction.
What circle of workplace friends are you moving in right now? If we choose our friends wisely—if we're "cautious in friendship"—we'll find that good friends will reinforce biblical values in our lives and treat us with courtesy and respect. But if we're not careful, we'll become part of a circle where loyalty isn't important and friendships are based not on character but on appearances and status. In a circle like that, we won't be treated well, and we'll begin to pick up the shallow attitude and outlook of the people we're spending the most time with.
Has anyone "dropped you off early" recently? Does this really come as a surprise?
Photo by Tim Miller. Post by Christopher R. Smith.
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