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The 5 Levels of High Performance Friendship

The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship
– Francis Bacon

Men commonly experience life without deep meaningful friendships. A recent survey of over 1,000 pastors and Christian leaders revealed only 36% indicated they have genuine friends.

Though male friendships are romanticized in tales of bravery, it is rare that men have intimate, open relationships with those whom they consider their friends. Whereas women very naturally share themselves with friends through acceptance and self-revealing conversations, men shy away from intimacy.

Men can achieve high performance friendship by applying the over-arching lesson learned from the way Christ treated His male friends during His human experience. The idea that learning from how Christ related to His friends could be the basis for Achieving High Performance Friendship motivated us to write a book on the subject with the same title.

Consider the relationship of the disciples to Christ. When Jesus was with the disciples in the Upper Room before He went out to be crucified for the sins of the world He gave them their final marching orders. In the midst of this He said something that is earth-shaking. He said He no longer called them servants but friends. He said that everything the Father revealed to Him He was revealing to the disciples. This kind of revelation is not shallow or superficial. It is intimate with nothing hidden or avoided. Later on Jesus modeled intimacy when He was honest enough to let His disciples know He was under extreme and painful pressure as He began to pray about the painful task of being arrested, beaten and then crucified. His honesty in revealing His pain to the disciples was a moment of intimacy and “high performance” friendship.

“High performance” characterizes a high quality friendship. In this context performance connotes the unusual, responsive, extraordinary and superlative. High performance friends:

  • are pleased with the opportunity to provide a selfless act on behalf of the other
  • feel comfortable sharing inner-most thoughts, yet each respect the other’s private thoughts
  • trust the other with that which they hold dear
  • support the other when they fail or err and forgiveness is readily granted
  • appreciate and accept heartfelt constructive criticism
  • truly celebrate the other’s success without jealousy or envy
  • sustain the relationship in spite of distance or time
  • do not make or tolerate disparaging remarks about the other especially behind their backs

There is a simple Christ-like principle that provides a key step in the right direction. Have you ever noticed how friendship can work like a mirror? When we are kind and thoughtful to others we tend to stimulate that response from others. And, if we are selfish and thoughtless, we stimulate that response from others?

The biggest mistake we make is that we try to drive the relationship rather than receive it. Significantly, Christ asks us to receive Him; He does not force Himself upon us.

If, for example, we want someone to be interested in us, we make the mistake of trying to be interesting so as to attract interest. What we should do is show interest in that person and he will then mirror that behavior back and become interested in us. If he doesn’t respond by showing interest, does he really show friendship potential?

Jesus said it is better to give than to receive. If we give others what we would like to receive from them—whether it be interest, kindness, or respect—do we not have a better chance of receiving it back in a way that leads to friendship? Was it not Christ’s sacrifice for his apostle friends that transformed them into sacrifice for Him?

Jesus is our model for friendships. He was not content to be a “pal” with whom one shared an activity. He modeled intimacy, sharing, giving and receiving. Jesus paved the way for High Performance Friendship.

The “five levels of friendship” help us understand what High Performance Friendship is:

Level 5—Acquaintance. This is a person whom we really do not know but call friend.

Level 4—Pals. These are people we know and with whom we do things but we do not share;

Level 3—Companion. This level is “Shared Activity”. But there is little vulnerability or sharing.

Level 2—Genuine friendships. There is a deep affection for and a deep commitment to each other. These friendships can be Christian, but they do not have to be.

Level 1—High Performance friendships. Becoming conformed to the image of Christ is life’s highest motivation. This is friendship on a Spiritual plane. Friends who help us grow spiritually and into closer conformity to Christ are the most intimate and important friends. At this level we share most deeply, most intimately and in a way that challenges both sides of the relationship.

With only 36% of the men surveyed saying they have a genuine friend, there is lots of room to grow. The goal of achieving High Performance Friendship is not unattainable when we choose to have Jesus as our model and teacher.

Find out more about Achieving High Performance Friendships here

Adapted from “Achieving High Performance Friendship: A Book for Men” by Dr. John Vawter and Dr. James Wetherbe.

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