Not Being too Friendly and the Book of Proverbs

When I was a kid I had trouble making friends. I was shy, picked on, and couldn’t see. I was routinely lectured by various family members attempting to be helpful, that I just needed to be friendlier.

“When you walk down the hall; smile at people. When you enter a room; say ‘hello’ to people. If you want to have friends, you need to be friendly. The Bible says that.”

Telling shy and petrified people to smile and say ‘hello’ to strangers is like telling my dog to build a rocket and fly to Mars. Oh sure, she might get one built, maybe even launched, but Mars? Come on, even people can’t do that!

The place where the Bible allegedly says to be friendly to get friends is in Proverbs 18:24, quoted in the KJV says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Anytime I heard this verse I became annoyed.

I remained annoyed until I read this verse in pretty much any other version. Let me focus in on the “a man that hath friends must show himself friendly” phrase in various translations:

ESV: A man of many companions may come to ruin
NASB: A person of too many friends comes to ruin
NIV: One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin

Even in the KJV, notice it doesn’t say if you are friendly you will have friends. It says if you have friends you have to be friendly. In other words, if you aren’t friendly to your friends, they will leave. But you have friendliness wherewithal to keep one or two that will stick with you like family.

The other translations emphasize the ruin part. Trying to keep a multitude of friends happy will ruin you. As Paul said, “If I yet pleased men I would not be the servant of Christ.”

The actual Hebrew does not translate well to English, but it’s clear the verse is not saying in order to have friends you have to be friendly.

Most of the jerks who’ve ever been jerks to me seemed to have quite a few friends!

So anyway, in your face lectury people lecturing me to smile and say ‘hello’ to strangers! The Bible actually says being overly friendly will ruin me! I’m sticking with that!

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