By J.R. Miller
"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." Proverbs 13:20
The power of one person's life over another's, is something almost startling! There have been single looks of an eye, which have changed a destiny. There have been meetings of only a moment, which have left impressions for life, for eternity! No one can understand that mysterious thing we call influence. We read of our blessed Lord, that virtue went out of Him and healed the timid woman who came behind Him in the crowd and touched the hem of His garment; again, when the throng surged about Him and sought to touch Him, that virtue went out of Him and healed them all. Of course, there never was another life such as Christ's; yet every one of us continually exerts influence--either to heal, to bless, to leave marks of beauty; or to wound, to hurt, to poison, to stain other lives.
We are forever either adding to the worlds health and happiness and good--or to its pain, sorrow, and curse. Every moment of true and honest living, every victory we win over self or sin, and even the smallest fragment of a sweet life we live--make it easier for others to he brave and true and gentle. We are always exerting influence.
And so it is that companionship always leaves its impression. One cannot even look another in the eye, in a deep, earnest gaze--but a touch has been left on his soul. A man, well past middle life, said that in his sensitive youth, another young man drew him aside and secretly showed him an obscene picture. He looked at it just for one moment and then turned away. But a spot had been burned upon his soul. The memory of that glance--he had never been able to wash out. It had come back to him along all the forty years he had lived since, even breaking in upon him in his most sacred moments, and staining his most hallowed thoughts!
We do not know what we are letting into our lives--when we take into companionship, even for one hour, one who is not good, not pure, not true. Then, who can estimate the debasing influence of such companionship, when continued until it becomes intimacy, friendship; when confidences are exchanged, when soul touches soul, when life flows into and blends with life?
When one awakens to the consciousness of the fact that he has formed or is forming a companionship with one whose influence can hurt him and perhaps destroy him--there is only one proper thing to do--it must instantly be given up!
A rabbit was caught by its foot, in the hunter's steel trap. The little creature seemed to know that unless it could get free--its life would soon be lost. So with a bravery which commands our greatest admiration, it gnawed off its leg with its own teeth, so setting itself free although leaving its foot in the trap. But who will say that it was not wiser to escape death in this manner even with the loss of its foot--than to have kept the foot and died? If anyone discovers that he is being caught in the snare of evil companionship or friendship, no matter what it may cost him--he should tear himself away from it! Better enter into pure, noble, and worthy life, with one hand or one foot, or both hands and feet cut away--than to save these members, and be dragged down to eternal death! Young people should be careful not to get caught up in evil companionship. It is like the machinery of a mill, which, when it once seizes even the fringe of one's clothing, quickly pulls in the whole garment, and whirls the person's body to a swift and terrible death.
But a good and honest character has also its influence. Good companionship has only blessing and benediction for another. There have been mere chance meetings, just for a moment, as when ships pass and signal each other at sea, which nevertheless have left blessings whose influence shall never perish.
So it is with the influence of good lives. Words, thoughts, songs, kindly deeds, the power of example, the inspiration of noble things--drop out of the heaven of pure friendship deep into a person's heart, and falling, are enfolded there and become beautiful gems and holy adornments in the life. Even brief moments of worthy companionship leave their mark of blessing. Then, who can tell the power of a close and long-continued friendship, running through many years, sharing the deepest experiences, heart and heart knit together, life and life woven as it were into one web?
Our friends are also our ideals. At least in every beautiful friend's life, we see some little glimpse of the heavenly life--a little fragment of the beauty of the Lord, which becomes part of the glory into which we should fashion our lives.
There is a wonderful restraining and constraining power over us--in the life of one we love. We dare not do wrong in the presence of a pure and gentle friend. Everyone knows how unworthy he feels when he comes, with the consciousness and recollection of some sin or some meanness, into the company of one he honors as a friend. It is a kind of "Jesus presence" that our friend is to us, in which we dare not do wrong.
"A friend has many functions. He comes as the brightener into our lives, to double our joys--and halve our griefs. He comes as the counselor to give wisdom to our plans. He comes as the strengthener, to multiply our opportunities and be hands and feet for us in our absence. But above all, he comes as our rebuker, to explain our failures and shame us from our sins; as our purifier, our uplifter, our ideal, whose life to us is a constant challenge in our heart! He says to us, Friend, come up higher, higher along with me; that you and I may be those truest friends, who are nearest to God when nearest to each other."
If these things are true--and no one can doubt their truth--this matter of companionship is one of vital importance. It is especially important for young people to give watchful thought and careful attention to the choosing of their associates and friends. Of course, they cannot choose those with whom they shall mingle in a general way, at school, or in work or business. One is often compelled to sit or stand day after day beside those who are not godly or worthy. The law of Christian love, requires that in all such cases the utmost courtesy and kindness be shown. But this can be done--and the heart not opened to real companionship.
It is companionship that leaves its mark on the life--that is, the entering into friendships in which the hearts blend. Jesus Himself showed love to all men--but He took as companions, only a few chosen ones. We are to be like Him, seeking to be a blessing to all--but receiving into personal relationships and confidences, only those who are worthy and whose lives will help in the upbuilding of our own lives.