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Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. — Proverbs 27:6

Julius Caesar was attacked by 60 conspirators in the entrance to the Roman Senate on March 15, 44 B.C. As this was happening, he saw Marcus Junius Brutus rush at him with drawn dagger. He was shocked and cried out in anguish, “Et tu, Brute?”—“You, too, Brutus?”

Brutus, a former enemy, had been forgiven, trusted, and genuinely loved by Caesar. But he had joined the assassins, and he plunged his dagger into the dictator’s breast. While Caesar had forgiven many of his defeated opponents, he had not made genuine friends.

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, had a similar problem. He said, “If you want a friend in Washington, D.C., get a dog!”

While emperors and presidents face special problems in making friends, most men find difficulty in establishing and maintaining genuine friendships. The reason may be that friendships require time, effort, and vulnerability. Work demands a great part of a man’s time and effort, and vulnerability is seen by many men as unmanly. So men tend to settle for acquaintances and colleagues, and friendships remain undeveloped.

That this is a serious omission in a man’s life can be seen from the teaching of Proverbs: “Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). The kiss of Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane was, on first appearances, a greeting and a blessing, but in fact it was the infamous act of an unscrupulous enemy. Better to have been wounded by Peter’s flailing sword than betrayed by Judas’s deceitful kiss.

Not that a friend’s wounding has to come from a sword. It can come from being told hard truths—things we need to hear that only those who love us and are more concerned about our well-being than our feelings and their own status as friends would be willing to tell us. But “the heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense” (27:9). Unpalatable counsel from a true friend is “heartfelt,” genuine, and therefore sweet. Only one who trusts and has been trusted knows the motives behind the critical evaluation and the corrective advice.

A genuine friend is of inestimable worth. So “never abandon a friend—either yours or your father’s” (27:10). The time will come in the uncertainties of life when support, encouragement, counsel, and help are in short supply. That is the time when long-standing friendships pay off.

In Washington, and elsewhere, a dog is okay—he will lick your face and bring your slippers. But only a friend will deliver what you really need.

For further study: Proverbs 27:1-10

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.