Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 15:21 (ESV)
Whenever you watch the news or read an article about a leader, such as the President or perhaps another world leader or a CEO or someone we think is significant, inevitably they will talk about their “inner circle.” These are the people a leader trusts with advice, the people whose wisdom and gut-level instinct he relies on to make life decisions.
You and I might think that we’re too tiny to need an inner circle. After all, we’re just doing mundane things, living lives that nobody notices, right? Not really. I think it’s important for every serious person to have their own group of trusted people whose advice they rely on. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or formal, but a few people of character who can help us process life’s difficult choices.
I have a small group of trusted people I regularly seek out when I have to make really big tough decisions. What’s interesting is that some of them don’t even know each other–they only share my friendship in common. Here are a few criteria you might consider for who is in your “inner circle.”
Do they have your best interests at heart? Good friends are folks who have your back. That means they genuinely care for you and want your success. This isn’t the same as always agreeing and destructive flattery. But they genuinely have to believe in our mission and be able to see a vision for how God is going to use us. In other words, selfish people make up a poor inner circle.
Do they have the courage to disagree with you? Let’s face it. We all need a Nathan, someone willing to stand up to us at times, as Nathan did with David. The key, thought, is attracting this kind of honesty. The tendency among leaders is to attract only those who will flatter, but the more successful we get, the more we need the other kind, those who love us enough to tell us the truth about ourselves.
Do they have good character? You would think this is a given, but its easy to befriend folks who like us and who we like and who will tell us that we are wonderful. But more important is character, so that when you are attacked or you’re facing a crisis, they will give you sound, biblically based advice, not advice that seeks revenge or only advances your interests.
Do they encourage? You need folks who will seek out the best in you, who believe in what God is doing through you, who don’t see your pursuits as a waste of time. This doesn’t mean they always agree or understand you, but do they know your heart and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Do they have wisdom you don’t possess? Very important. Befriend people who know more than you, have more experience and gray hair, and have the ability to winsomely mentor you. Young people like myself tend to hang only with other cool young people. But I’m learning the value of having older guys in my life who can share what they have learned.
Do they connect with you on a personal, gut level? The truth is that not all people mesh well and that’s okay. It’s important that you respect the person giving advice and that you have a good personal relationship. This relationship builds up credit so when you need to hear some difficult truth, you’ll take it, based on your history.
These are just a few guidelines I’ve used to build up a good “inner circle” of friends. And this isn’t the best list or an exhaustive list. Just a few things that have shaped my selection of friends. Also, it’s very important to remember that often these types of friendships come about naturally–God brings people into your life. The key is taking advantage of these gifts and investing time so the relationships prosper and you are surrounded by people who can help you fulfill your calling.