by Skip Moen
Too many friends – “A trait often present in people with negative self-images is that they try to please everyone. . . . These people-pleasers are unquestionably unhappy people.” This assessment demands that we ask, “What constitutes a negative self-image?” If being a people-pleaser is so dangerous to our own well-being, then we must know the symptoms so that we can take steps to change. In the age of Facebook, where “relationships” are quantified by the number of digital responses, it is vital to understand why people think they must play to the crowd.
Rabbi Abraham Twerski notes, “people who have negative self-images are extraordinarily sensitive.” He comments that people who think of themselves as inadequate are likely to overreact to ordinary stresses in life. They project their inadequacies into the responses they get from others, believing that they are being criticized even though the reply is generally benign. Why does this happen? The answer may be hidden in this proverb. “Too many friends” is the Hebrew word re’im. The text actually does not say, “too many.” It reads, “A man of companions.” But this doesn’t seem right. Doesn’t everyone need friends? Aren’t companions good to have? The sense of the proverb lies in the contrast between re’im and ‘ohev, the word used in the second half of the verse. Here it is translated “a friend,” but the Hebrew comes from the love ‘ahev, the word for “love.” In other words, this proverb contrasts those who are casual but uncommitted “friends” with a true “love.” By replacing “lover” with “a friend,” the English avoids gender issues but obscures the real intent. There are only a few who are true lovers of who we are. Perhaps, in the end, there is only one. We may have hundreds of Facebook friends, but when life requires undying commitment, most of them will fade into the cyberspace of forgetting. A true love, an ‘ohev, is one who sticks closer than a brother. And let me tell you, there aren’t many of those.
Why do we need this linguistic correction in the proverb? Because people-pleasing is a mass market affair. Because if our self-image is tied to the volume of acquaintances, we will forever doubt that we are truly loved. Because in the end, Facebook cannot know us as we really are. Relying on the digital encounters of an age without deep connection will only lead to ruin. Why? Because we will never be sure that who we are is good enough. What we need, what each one of us truly needs, is an ‘ohev who is closer than a brother. We need someone who knows us to the core and who we know in the same way. We need genuine companionship built on open transparency. If we can’t find anyone like that in our Facebook world, then we probably will have a very difficult time with God as well. He can’t be ‘ohev until we are open to finding an ‘ohev. Perhaps that’s the real power of the Messiah. He came as ‘ohev for each of us so that we could experience YHVH as ‘ohev.
Negative self-image begins with thinking that who I am as I am is not enough to be loved. It proceeds by attempting to manipulate my world to give me the affirmation I long to experience. But because I start with suspicion, I cannot experience true affirmation. If I want to be known and to know, I will have to put my Facebook world aside and search for the one ‘ohev who clings to me no matter what (that, by the way, is the verb davaq which first appears in Genesis 2:24).
Reflection: A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 NASB
Topical Index: friends, re’im, ‘ohev, lover, davaq, Genesis 2:24, Proverbs 18:24
“…Key for me is dialogue, not doctrine. I do not find myself shackled to ossified propositions from past philosophical dilemmas. I do hope to someday understand what God told His people.
I have only one purpose – to find out what the text says, that is, what it meant to the audience that heard it first, what it meant in that culture’s paradigm. So I search anywhere and everywhere that the text takes me. That’s all. That’s enough. I barely have time for even this.
I am trying to find out how to live as a Gentile follower of Yeshua who serves YHVH. Along the way, I am finding that a lot of the forms of Christian theology don’t fit the Scriptures I read, and that means I have to rethink things. But please don’t call me a heretic unless I actually become one.” -Skip
Learn more about Skip from his website: http://www.skipmoen.com