Show me a person’s friends and the content that he consumes, and I will tell you what kind of individual he is. The quickest and most straightforward way to know a person is by assessing their relationships and the things that they put into their minds.
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A man murdered my brother thirty-one days before his thirty-second birthday. I was not surprised because I never imagined him living to be an older man. His life was one long string of trouble. And he surrounded himself with things that made sure he would never change.
My brother was a classic example of this truth about the “shaping influences of associations and content.” He hung with bad friends, and when his evil friends found no further use with him, they disposed of him. And that was that.
They say, “you are what you eat,” which has a measure of truth. I would also say that “you are who you associate with,” whether those things are relationships or forms of media, i.e., TV, music, books, social media, video games, etc.
Tips for Assessing Others
Here are a few excellent diagnostic assessments that you can make to learn about a person. These questions will help you identify what James taught us when he said that we are drawn to things because of the desires of our hearts. Your heart is like a magnet that pulls you toward people and things. What is pulling you along?
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:14-15
- Who do you spend time with regularly?
- What do you think about when you have some downtime?
- What do you like to read or study?
- What do you like to look at as far as pictures, videos, TV, people, fashion, culture, movies, etc.?
- What do you like to listen to, e.g., gossip, music, types of people?
Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals. – 1 Corinthians 15:33
Not Just People
Your “companions” are not necessarily people. They can be people, but they are much more than that. Your “companions” include your thought life (worry, anxiety, fear, and shame) and your word choices (gossip, criticalness, praise, and encouragement).
What about your language? Some of your companions are the words you choose. Your words come from your heart (Luke 6:45), which makes your vocabulary like a window into your soul. Water seeks its own level; when you pour water on the ground, it will find it’s level and settle there. When you are free to do what you want to do, what is the thing that you do? Where do you “settle?”
My brother surrounded himself with evil companions. Whether it was what was going on inside of him, e.g., thoughts, words, motives or those things in his external world, e.g., friends, habits, media, there was no question that he was the sum of all of them.
Friends are broader and deeper than what most people think. If you can comprehensively unpack all the “companions” in your life, you will be able to know what kind of person you are. If you can help your friends to see themselves more clearly, perhaps you can be an agent of change in their lives so they don’t have to continue on a dysfunctional path like my brother.
Call to Action
- Who are your companions? Go back through this article and think about the possible companions in your life. You should be able to add more than what I have listed. Begin writing down a composite of the kind of person you are.
- If you’re discipling someone, share this article with them, and then help them to begin assessing themselves. Your goal is to assist them in analyzing all the “put off” things in their life and then replace them with biblically-centered “put on” things.
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24