A Friend Betrayed
About the Guest
Did Jesus have followers or friends? Pastor John Vawter and Jim Wetherbe talk about the importance of selecting the right friends, as well as being the right kind of friend. John and Jim reflect on friends who have betrayed them in the past and what those difficulties taught them.
Jim WetherbePh.D. in Management Information Systems, Organizational Behavior, and Computer Science with over 40 years experience in academia and industry. Experience includes professorial and administrative positions in higher education including the Universities of Minnesota, Memphis, Houston, and Texas Tech; and management positions with computing, energy, and consulting companies. Rated as one of the top 12 consultants and lecturers on MIS by Information Week, also ranked as one of the 20 most influentia...more
John VawterJohn has a degrees from the University of Oregon, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Bethel Seminary. After 10 years of ministry with Campus Crusade (including 3 years as the Northwest Area Director) he entered pastoral ministry. john served in the suburbs of Minneapolis where we grew the church he pastored from 200 to 1000 and moved to Tempe, AZ on a call to served in a 2000 member church. He has had the privilege of serving as president of both Western Seminary and Phoenix Seminary....more
John Vawter and Jim Wetherbe talk about the importance of selecting the right friends, as well as being the right kind of friend.
A Friend Betrayed
Bob: For men to really connect with other men, in meaningful friendships, there has to be a high degree of trust; but how can you know if another friend is trustworthy? Here’s Jim Wetherbe.
Jim: There’s another litmus test to it, as well. That is that trust is so high, that if the friend gives you feedback in a constructive manner, you don’t question the motivation. You know it’s coming from a good place. It’s not meant to judge you. It’s not meant for them to feel better about you. In fact, one of the tests we have is: “If, when we’re giving a friend feedback that is negative, if we take any joy in that, then, something is not right with us.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about what constitutes real, authentic, high- performance friendships for men. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we often think about Jesus and His disciples—those who followed Him, those who believed in Him—I don’t know that we think about those guys as His friends as much as we think about them as His followers. There is a difference between a follower and a friend.
Dennis: There really is, but if you read John, Chapter 15—in fact, let me just do that, real quickly here. John 15, verse 12—these are words of Christ. He said: “This is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.”
I’d go on and read the rest of it; but I wanted to stop there because Jesus talks about: first of all, the need to love; secondly, the need for self-sacrifice on behalf of a friend; third, on identifying the person as a friend; and then, fourth, disclosure. He said He had revealed everything the Father had told Him. Jesus was vulnerable. He had shared truth. He had shared His life with the disciples. I think that’s why they felt they were His friends—man to man.
I want to ask the guys, who join us again on FamilyLife Today—Dr. John Vawter and Dr. Jim Wetherbe—“What do you guys think?” You guys wrote a book on achieving high- performance friendships. What do you think? Jesus modeled it there; didn’t he?
John: I’ve been asked, for years, to write a book on friendship; and I asked Jim to work with me on the project. When he agreed to work with me on it, we got together and we talked about that passage. I remember, specifically, the look on Jim’s face when he read what I had written about this whole issue of intimacy. He said: “This is an epiphany. I’ve never thought about that before.” He, actually, then, guided me in thinking about the fact that, in genuine friendship—and we’re talking about male friendships—men have to be intimate with one another.
Jim: That’s such a compelling example, in the Garden of Gethsemane—when He takes His friends and He opens it up—because we’ve never thought of Christ lacking macho. When we see that He is willing to reveal what He revealed and that prayer, that He shared openly with His friends, and is well-documented—it really sets an example to all of us, men, that there is nothing lacking in our manhood if we share when we’re hurting.
Dennis: I want to go to a question you guys address, in your book; and that is, the litmus test for friendships. Where do you start to think about, “Who do you select as a friend?”
Jim: Well, we talked a little bit about sort of the risks of friendships and the risks of starting friendships. We, actually, subtitled this: A Book for Men. The reason we did that is we are making it clear that men are worse at this than women; but there are a lot of lessons that women, actually, quite frankly, seemed to have learned from Christ better than us. Women show interest in others rather than trying to be interesting.
If you watch men engage, it is like, “Which of us can be the most interesting?” as opposed to, “Which of us can be the most interested in another person?” There is really very little risk in showing interest in someone because most people are egocentric enough they are happy to share their accomplishments.
The other thing that Christ did—and women seem to pick up on better than men—is that He would use a gesture of kindness. If you see someone new move into the neighborhood, women will bring over a dessert or something of that nature—a gesture of kindness. Offering to help another man with a project that he’s involved in—that’s not a really risky way to reach out.
One of the dynamics we talk about, in the book, is a phenomenon called mirroring. When we’re thoughtful and kind, we get it right back. If we are rude and inconsiderate, we get it right back. That’s why paying attention to Christ and the example He set for people allowed them to see, “Here’s the type of behavior that is acceptable.”
Dennis: John, what about you? As you look at the litmus test for selecting a friend, what do you look for?
John: Well, something I wish we had added in the book, and we didn’t—Paul Tournier—the Swiss Christian psychologist—wrote a book called Secrets. In the book, he said: “If we have no friends, then, we are not human because God created us to be social. If we don’t discriminate, because we tell everyone everything, we’re not human because God built us to have discrimination in our relationships.”
So, I thought about that in terms of life as a series of concentric circles. In the very smallest circle, there is God and myself—which means that there are a few secrets I keep from my wife Susan—not very many—some are sins I’ve committed in the past or some thoughts I don’t want her to know about—but for the most part, she’s close; but God and I are in the first circle. God, Susan, and I are in the second circle. Then, the third circle would be my siblings and my children.
As the circles get bigger, intimacy disappears. Those people are acquaintances, but they are not friends. So, for me, part of that litmus test is also understanding whether or not this is someone with whom I can be intimate—someone with whom I can share myself—share my inner self. “Will they be respectful of what I share with them?” and also, “Will they, in return, share?” If they don’t, then, I realize that this will be a large concentric circle because there simply will not be any intimacy with them. And so, there are people that I call friends, but they are not high-level friends. I enjoy being with them, but there is no intimacy because they simply refuse to share any part of their life with me.
Bob: Yes, I think anybody who is on Facebook® knows what you are talking about because we all have Facebook friends. Some of them, we’ve never met in our lives!
Jim: That, to a certain extent, kind of cheapens the word, friendship—
Jim: —because clicking a button and you are an instant friend—but to the litmus test issue—a friend is someone you’re comfortable thinking out loud in front of and you’re not fearful. You feel safe sharing things that you might be fearful about, or concerned about, or worried about.
There’s another litmus test to it, as well. That is, the trust is so high that, if the friend gives you feedback in a constructive manner, you don’t question the motivation. You know it’s coming from a good place. It’s not meant to judge you. It’s not meant for them to feel better about you. In fact, one of the tests we have is: “If, when we’re giving a friend feedback that is negative, if we take any joy in that, then, something is not right with us in terms of our own litmus test.”
But another dynamic is—if you were to tell me John said something negative about me, behind my back, I would not believe you because I know John would tell me about the issue first. Now, John might say, “This is something I’ve shared with Jim, that he’s working on,” and that would be fine. But if you were to say he said something negative, that I had never heard, I simply wouldn’t believe you. I trust John to that level. That’s the litmus test I apply to my other friends, that I consider to be high-performance friends.
Dennis: So, they wouldn’t talk about you behind your back?
Jim: That’s spot-on.
Dennis: And you’re really nibbling around the edge of something that, I think, is key in a true friendship; and that is, that all of us have blind spots. We have weaknesses in our lives that—when we look in the mirror, we don’t see—we’re simply oblivious to. A true friend is someone who can put his arm around you, and speak the truth, and, perhaps, help you take the blinders off, and put you in touch with your blind spot and how it is impacting other people.
John: Well, I have two responses to that. One is to what Jim said; and that is—we tell the story, in the book—or I tell the story in the book—of a very good friend of mine. Some people were criticizing me to him. When they came up for breath, he said, “You’re not describing the man I know.” That stopped the conversation. That meant the world to me because that said to me he was not going to allow people to criticize me behind my back.
Secondly, Dennis, I appreciate your comment and your question because I’ve told Jim—and he had a funny look on his face when I told him this—I said, “I’m sorry we ever wrote this book because it’s exposing a bad side of me—and that is, a lack of courage—because I have some friends who have blind spots, and I’m trying to figure out how to say, ‘That is not right.’ It’s exposing a lack of courage, on my part; and it’s exposing the fact that I’m not as good a friend as I think I am because good friends help each other grow.” So, there is a fear factor, on my part.
Dennis: All of us, as men, need somebody to speak into our lives around these issues that we really are completely blind to.
Bob: Let me ask you about high-performance friendships between believers and unbelievers. I’m just wondering about—“Is that possible?” I think a lot of Christians have a hard time having close friendships with non-Christians because it almost feels like a betrayal of your faith if you’re that close to somebody who doesn’t share your core convictions. Just talk about how you’ve experienced that and any coaching you’d give there.
Jim: You know, that’s a great question because Christ certainly gave us the example. He sought out relationships with non-believers as a way to open their eyes. So, I have friends—I’m in a university, where it’s a place full of atheists. I have friends that are atheists. You know, there is the old saying that, “Preach the Gospel at all times; and sometimes, use words.” You have that opportunity just to show how you handle things.
One of my dearest friends is an atheist. He’s a very principled person, who behaves at a very high standard. As I was sharing faith issues with him, I said, “One of the dynamics, for someone like you is, you look around and you see a lot of people who claim to be Christians,”—and C.S. Lewis said, “The worst part of Christianity is Christians.”
Jim: So, he can look at people who claim to be people of faith; and their behavior is subpar to his. I said, “You know, if you assume that there is a God and there is a devil, have you ever considered that, in the world of spiritual warfare, that’s how you are being manipulated because you feel superior?” Now, what’s interesting about this person is—they left and went somewhere else, for some time. They had—were treated very unfairly. When they came back, that changed him.
You know, so much of life is not what happens to you—it’s how you respond to it. He’s not the same. In fact, I had a recent conversation with him. I said: “You seem different. What’s happened?” He said, “Well, I am more hard than I used to be.” He started acknowledging things that had changed about him. That’s one of the great things that God does for us is—He can take our failures, our pain, and our hurts and heal us from it; and then, allow us to use it to help our friends and help other people. But in this case, it breaks my heart because he is not the same caliber of person. Maybe, that’s—perhaps, a doorway for Christ to enter his life. But it is something that we have to deal with—is to have relationships.
Now, if being with people that aren’t Christian-based is hard for you, and it draws you into temptations that you shouldn’t be in, then, that’s probably not a good idea. But if that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, that’s part of the marching orders that we have, as disciples for Christ.
Dennis: Yes, get out in the middle of it and rub shoulders with those who need Jesus Christ.
Dennis: One of the things you guys haven’t talked about and I want you to comment on is betrayal. Have you ever had a friend—a close friend that you’ve really trusted in and you’ve shared a lot of life with—and there was a severe disappointment, even to the point of a betrayal?
Jim: You know, we get a great example from Christ on that one because He was betrayed by both Judas and Peter. He realized that that was not a salvageable relationship with Judas; but with Peter, He knew that it was salvageable. They worked on that relationship, and Peter turned it around.
So, yes, it has happened. The important thing—and Christ gives us such a great example because Christ always uses sort of a questioning technique like, “I thought there were ten lepers”—we’ve talked about that before—or, “Who among you hasn’t sinned?” So, just saying to someone: “When you did that, do you know how that made me feel? Would you like to know how it made me feel?”—just a way to kind of open that—If we come in and say, “What you did was wrong. It was unfair,” and so forth, then, you’re just going to get defensiveness; and the relationship doesn’t have a true chance to heal.
John: I was with a mutual friend. He gossiped about one of his best friends, who is, also, is one of my best friends. I stopped him and said, “You have to understand”—I’ll just call him Jack—I said, “Jack is one of my very best friends.” He said, “Yes, he’s a good friend of mine, too.” I said: “Then, why are you talking about him because he’s not here to hear what you say? I would rather not hear your commentary on him.”
I, actually, went to Jack and said, “You need to be careful because this man spoke about you in very harsh terms—unflattering terms.” What’s interesting is that I’ve moved away from the guilty party, and he’s moved away from me. The other two guys are as tight as they ever were because the man, Jack—or as I call him—forgave the fellow. But from my point of view, what I saw was that this man would talk about people behind their backs. Therefore, I made the assumption that he would talk about me behind my back. So, I just withdrew from him.
Secondly, I heard that somebody had done something similar to me. So, I went to him and asked him about it. He denied that it happened, and I realized that it had happened. Once again, I withdrew because I realized that the relationship was not as strong as I thought it was. It was a relationship where he could benefit from knowing me, but he was not giving me anything. Therefore, it was not a relationship of reciprocity.
Bob: You’ve had the experience of betrayal. How have you handled it?
Dennis: Well, I ultimately went to the person—but the friendship had been deep. It had been—it had occurred over a number of decades. I realized that, really, the responsibility was on me to not just forgive in quiet but to go and to say: “I just want you to know—here were my expectations about our friendship and what I thought was true of us, and that didn’t turn out to be a reality. As a result, you didn’t have the same opinion about me and my friendship. So, the relationship has been severed. I want you to know I’ve missed you, but I get it.” This particular person said: “I really don’t need relationships. I don’t have a need, at the level you are talking about, for that kind of friendship.”
At that point, I think what we have to do is we have to do what Christ did. We have to forgive and just realize who it is we are dealing with and allow them the space to be who they are and not try to enable it—not try to go back and fix the relationship, and re-fire it again, and make it happen—but to just admit the loss, which it was. It was a great loss in my life; and keep moving and learn from it.
Jim: Sure. That’s a great example because we can forgive, but it doesn’t mean that we have to try to have the deep relationship again.
When I was at the University of Minnesota, I was going up for full professor early. There were two senior faculty, whom I considered friends. Both of them would have to support that for it to happen. Both of them supported it because I was being recruited by another university. They didn’t want me to leave; and they said, “We’ll support this.” Well, when push came to shove, another senior person—whom I didn’t consider to be a friend—was against it. My one friend abandoned me because he didn’t want to look like he wasn’t being tough enough on standards and so forth. So, he threw me under the bus. I found out about it later. I got a positive vote, but it wasn’t positive enough for an early promotion. So, I was going to leave.
The other friend was upset about it. He said, “Don’t leave.” I said: “Well, I’ve kind of been humiliated here. I’m going to take this other position.” He said, “No. Jim, just stick around one more year. I promise, if you will stay one more year—if you don’t get promoted next year, you pick any university you want, and I’ll go with you.”
The benefit of that was I picked up this really, really deeper level with that friend because that was an incredible commitment. I told him: “I won’t allow you to do that. That’s too kind of you.” He said, “In that case, let’s go back.” He exposed what this other guy did. They re-voted. I got the positive vote, and I got promoted. But that individual who betrayed me, I was always polite with him. I forgave him for it, interacted with him very professionally; but I no longer saw the possibility of an intimate friendship after that had happened.
Dennis: If you don’t forgive, you’re, ultimately, the person who ends up paying, in the long-haul.
Dennis: Let me just make one comment that you made, Jim—I want to clarify. You don’t have to stay in a relationship—a friendship—if there has been a betrayal. In fact, the counsel may be to part and go your different directions; but marriage is different—
Dennis: —because marriage is a covenant. The option of giving up, or the option of quitting, or the option of not forgiving is simply inconsistent with, not only how Christ lived, but His teaching in the New Testament. I just want to say that because I thought there might be a person, listening to us, who is going: “Maybe, that’s what’s taken place in my marriage. Maybe, I can get out of my marriage.” Friendships are not—they can be covenant relationships—but they’re not necessarily a covenant-keeping relationship.
Jim: Dennis, I’m glad you brought up the issue of wives because that is a different relationship. A caveat that we make, early on in the book, is that this is a book about men and friendships; but John and I, both, want to make it real clear: “Our number one friendship is with our wives.” That is the most important relationship, but we need these other relationships to really have as full of a life as we can. But number one is the marriage.
Bob: You know, one of the things that has been—that I’ve kind of been chewing on, as we’ve been talking about this, is I think guys have to have a pretty healthy understanding of how God made us, as men, in order for them to be effective friends. I think we’ve got to know what our assignment is; don’t you?
Dennis: We have to admit that we do need friendships. These men have been talking about this all this week. A good friendship starts out of the understanding: “You know what? I was made, by God, to be close to at least a few people on this planet, in terms of really deep, intimate relationship.”
I just want to say, “Thanks,” here at the end of the broadcast, to both of you guys for, first of all, putting your friendship to the test in writing this book together—
Bob: [Laughter] Did you two make out okay during the writing of the book?
Jim: There’s a joke that you need to pick your co-author more carefully than you pick a wife [Laughter] because it is a challenge. But we, actually, ended up being deeper friends because we understood each other better. We had to give each other feedback because working together is different than just being friends together.
Bob: Well, I guess you are here. So, I guess we’ve got to give some credit to that; right?
Dennis: John’s looking at me.
John: Actually, I really don’t like him. I just came because you invited me. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, John, Jim, I want to thank you guys, not only writing this book, Achieving High Performance Friendships, but also, just modeling it here on the broadcast. I think that’s going to minister to a lot of men and, for that matter, a lot of women who want to help their husbands do a better job of having friendships.
Bob: If you go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, there is information available there about the book that John and Jim have written, Achieving High Performance Friendships. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to ask about a copy of the book. Again, it’s called Achieving High Performance Friendships. The website is FamilyLifeToday.com, and the toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Let me just say, I think one way to achieve high-performance friendships is by spending time together—going through material like the Stepping Up™ video series, that FamilyLife has put together. It’s a ten-week series. You watch about a half-hour video; and then, there is a discussion that you follow in your manual.
This week, we’ve been encouraging the men, who listen to FamilyLife Today, to give us a call and say, “I’d be willing to take ten of my friends through the Stepping Up material this fall,” and order manuals for the guys that you’re going to take through it. They can pay you back for the manuals. If you’ll do that this week, we’ll send you the DVDs for free. So, call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you’ve got any questions or if you’re ready to order—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”. By the way, the offer ends Sunday night at midnight. So, get in touch with us right now.
Now, in addition to asking you if you would take some men through the Stepping Up video series this week, we’ve also been asking you if you’d consider making a contribution to help support FamilyLife Today. Summertime is a challenging time for ministries like ours. We often see a decline in financial support coming in for this ministry during the summer; and that has been the case again this summer.
So, we’ve been asking you if you’d consider making a one-time contribution to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today to help defray the costs of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. If you’ll do that today, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a CD that features a conversation we had with Dr. Steve Farrar, talking about what a dad can do to anchor his family in Christ for the next one hundred years. Something, I think, all of us would aspire to as men.
We’ll be happy to send you those CDs when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”, and make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone and just ask for the CDs on anchoring your family in Christ. Again, we’re happy to send those out to you, and we appreciate your generous support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk to the President of Wheaton College. We’re going to talk about what real love looks like in all kinds of relationships. So, I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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