It’s crazy how many of us have values around money or politics or cars.
We research the crap out of those things. But when we think about friends, how do we choose them? The reason there are so many things in my own life that I’m thankful for is because God’s doing a good thing. And He’s choosing to use my friends—ones who I have chosen with wisdom.
There are lots of dating apps, but I don’t know of any friendship apps. Most of us don’t have core convictions about friendships, and don’t understand how to choose the right ones. Therefore, we find ourselves in a really odd spot where we have passively inherited people who may not be having the effect on our life that is needed. Why did Jesus have the most powerful movement ever? It was partly because of the Holy Spirit, and it was also his friends. He had the right people around him who enabled his life to have impact, and it kept going after he was gone.
The friendships in your life will dictate the joy in your life. I want to help you get the most out of understanding the people around you. This is a template that is so foundational to my life that I think about it almost every day. You need to know what the four types of people groups are, and how your friendships fit into each one of these categories. Just like you are what you eat—you are who you spend time with.
Very draining person
A very draining person is somebody who causes your energy level to go down when they’re around you. Your zest for life decreases. Your knowledge base never goes up around this person (unless it’s your knowledge base about why the world is awful). VDPs always see the glass half empty. They are always down. Even Jesus had a bunch of VDPs in his life. They were called the religious people, and they were always looking for something that he was doing wrong.
In the book of Luke 11 Verse 53, it says, As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
These VDPs are pressing him. They’re lying in wait. They’re trying to get him in trouble. This is what VDPs do. Or, they try to get you to know how great they are. Or, they one up all of your stories. Or, they moan and groan about how hard their life is. They are like a shop vac that goes right to your soul and sucks the life out of it.
Every healthy body has healthy intake and healthy extraction. Healthy eating, healthy pooping. Similarly, you have to learn how to bring people into your life and exit people from your life. Some of us have people who are around us simply by default, and we’ve never learned how to exit them. We need to exit VDP’s from our lives.
Here’s how to spot a VDP
Who slumps your shoulders when you see them?
Whose call don’t you want to answer?
Who sees the glass as half empty?
Who enjoys giving bad news or being the devil’s advocate?
Who always puts their own interests first?
Very neutral person
A very neutral person is someone you don’t mind being around. Maybe you don’t mind seeing them at a party, they’re not really sucking anything out of your life. But you also have to ask, are they adding anything to your life? We need people who are adding value to our lives. Jesus’ VNPs are best seen as the “crowds.” In the first four books of the New Testament, the phrase crowd is used 144 times. There are crowds everywhere.
Here’s an example of this: Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. (Matthew 8:18) A lot of us live for the crowds. We want as many followers on Instagram as possible. Us pastor types, we want rooms as full as possible. If you’re running a business, you want as many people buying as possible. We’re energized by crowds. Yet, we see again and again that Jesus would go the opposite way of the crowds. Why would that be? Because He recognized that He could do his time in the crowd, but holistically, a crowd was neutral. A crowd wasn’t going to push His life and His agenda forward.
The individuals he met and discipled and interacted with were the ones who made an impact. The crowds aren’t what make our lives full or complete. If you don’t believe me, I’ll show you person after person who’s had a lot of crowds around them, and yet they burned out. It is one thing when a VDP is in growth mode and becomes a VNP (a very rare occurrence). But when the people in our life are all VNP’s who aren’t encouraging us and calling us to a higher level then there is a cap on our inner joy and our future.
Here’s how to spot a VNP
Who around me isn’t affecting me?
Does the time on my calendar with this person match the output of my life?
Who is in my life purely because of history?
Who has a life that is at a standstill?
Who has a presence in my life but isn’t a gift to my life?
Very energizing person
Libby and I get together with a couples group on Monday nights. All of them energize us. These are people who lift your spirit when you’re around them. You feel yourself getting just a bit more powerful as the evening goes on.
One of the guys in my Monday group is named “Michael.” I call him Mikey and I also call him Sunshine, because whenever he’s around, things just get warmer. He brings the UV rays. He keeps you from being depressed. I have this photo of him at Man Camp. Look at everybody around Mikey. In a world full of sourpusses, be a Mikey. I love this. Mikey is a very energizing person.
I’ll tell you who else energized me recently. One of the ways I pray for people at Crossroads is through our app. I got a prayer request from a guy I didn’t know named Joel. He said this:
I lost my mom recently. Please pray that I can again trust God to be good instead of fearing that he doesn’t really care for me.
My heart goes out to Joel. When there’s an anonymous prayer request, that never energizes me. I’m sure somebody’s going to pray for you, but without specifics, I’m just not as energized. But when you put your face and your name and your heart out there and say, “My mom died,” and then you go a veneer underneath, and you say that it’s actually causing you to doubt whether or not God is good, and you don’t like it? Man, that level of vulnerability energizes me.
Being an energizer doesn’t mean that you’re happy, clappy, joy, joy all the time. It means that there’s no hidden agenda. It means that you’re operating on a different plane. When that happens, it brings energy to the people around you.
How to spot a VEP
Who enters the room immediately and makes you smile?
Who makes you feel better about yourself?
Who would you want to vacation with?
Who is interested in talking about you?
Who knows how to be a blessing?
Very important person
Very Important people are those who you know are key to your future. They are those who God has put in your life and they deserve your attention.
VIPs can be energizing, but they’re not always. Your 13-year-old might not always be energizing or adding value to you right now, but you know that part of why you’re on this planet is because of that kid. Your college professor is a very important person, and although he or she might not energize you, you make time for what they have to say. One very important person in my life was Gordon MacDonald. I’ve interacted with him a bit, and he wrote a book on these types of people that I read 30 years ago and then adapted. He is a very important person to me.
Jesus had people who were both important and energizing. I believe Peter, James, and John were energizing people for Jesus. They were three people he often took away from the other 12. Maybe it’s because the other 12 were a bit neutral. He gave the three a lot of access to him that the others didn’t have. Maybe because those three made a unique deposit in his life that the other nine didn’t. We don’t know for sure, but we can be confident they were very energizing to him.
One person who was incredibly important to Jesus was named Peter. Here’s what it says in Matthew 16. After Peter is the first person who actually says, “I say you’re the Messiah,” Jesus says,
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, but I will call you Rock, and upon this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Man, who wouldn’t like to be called Rock by Jesus? He says, “Man, you are so important. You and your testimony are going to be foundational to the movement of all that takes place in the future.”
How to spot a VIP
Who are the people in your life that, without them, you would not be where you are?
Who has sacrificed for you to make sure you were taken care of?
Who do you feel a holistic responsibility before God for?
Who do you turn to that always has the right counsel for you?
Who is going to extend your influence?
I believe we are all the sum average of the closest people to us. Whatever they are, you are. If everyone around you drinks five beers every night, you’re drinking five beers every night. If everybody around you is judgmental toward people of a different political party, you are too. If everybody around you works out, then you probably work out. We become the average of those around us, and that fact never changes.
Friendships are always going to be the key discipline to get your life going. You have to ask yourself, “Do I like where my life is? Is someone pouring into me? Am I pouring into them?” You must know who is in your life and what effect they’re having on you. Ask yourself if that’s what you want for your future. Then you’ve got to take control.
Get the wrong people out of your life while giving the right people more of your life. That’s how to have a life of impact.