Last summer, my friend John and I decided we needed to spend more time together. John is a magnetic individual – the kind of person who is so comfortable in his own skin that he makes you more comfortable in yours. The first time I met him, I knew we were going to be friends.

From June through August, John and I met about once per week with no real agenda besides talking about life. Over the course of the summer, we shared challenges, victories, hopes, and anxieties. Our time together was always extremely encouraging, and the summer was one of growth for both of us.

Today, I gratefully consider John one of my armor bearers.

He’s a man in whom I have extreme confidence. He’s not perfect – in fact, the façade of perfection precludes formation of armor-bearing friendships (more on that in an upcoming post). Instead, John is authentic, trustworthy, and loyal.

I’m blessed to be able to say the same thing about a number of truly excellent men – and it has made all the difference in the development of my character and contentment, and my ability to pursue my dreams.

Whether you realize it or not, the same is true for you.

Greatness Grows in Groups!

The power of association is one of the immutable, irrefutable rules of life.  

Have you ever heard of someone working to get sober from alcohol, clean from a drug, or free of some other destructive habit, only to have their “old friends” pull them back down?

That’s the power of association, and it’s present and at work in your life, right now.

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

– Proverbs 13:20

Though your experience may be far less dramatic, those closest to you influence your attitude, choices, resilience, and self-efficacy – and ultimately your success or failure. It’s been said that there are four kinds of people in life: Those who add, subtract, multiply, or divide. The point is that every relationship will affect you for good or bad. My friend Shannon – another man in whom I have extreme confidence – says it this way: Greatness grows in groups. He’s right.

How are your relationships affecting you?

“A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him or her.”

– John Maxwell

We all have an ‘inner circle,’ but we don’t all have armor bearers…

Our natural tendency is to surround ourselves with those people we are most comfortable with. They become our ‘inner circle’ and the people who influence our lives most significantly. But they are not necessarily the best people for us – and they are not necessarily armor bearers.

As we’ve discussed, armor bearing is a special kind of committed, reciprocal, reliable, life-shaping friendship. Throughout life, most people have many friends, but few true armor bearers.

Thus, it’s important to be intentional about developing your ‘inner circle.’ Include friends you enjoy spending time with, but also include armor bearers who truly know your heart.

“With you, heart and soul.”

By now, you’ve probably started to consider your ‘inner circle’ and wonder whether you’ve got armor bearers. Perhaps you’ve even identified a few people with whom you feel a special, deeper bond.

But how do you know if these individuals are your armor bearers?

Armor bearing relationships always have a few common characteristics with regard to values, priorities, and results. 

  • People in armor bearing relationships share the same values – namely, a foundational worldview centered on a commitment to God and to living their faith.
  • These values are reflected in shared priorities because they must be outworked practically in family and community, personally and professionally. This is where reciprocity enters the picture. One shared priority is armor bearers’ commitment to each other, through thick and thin.
  • Finally, as described above, armor bearing produces results, including spiritual growth and maturity, better decision-making, healthier risk-taking, more satisfaction, and often more temporal success. In essence, armor bearers help each other live at a higher level together than either would have achieved alone.

Does this describe your inner circle?

Questions to Ask in Identifying Armor Bearers.

In case you’re interested in a little more guidance, here are a few questions to ask when identifying potential armor bearers.

Does he display quality of character? Armor bearers aren’t perfect, nor should perfection be expected. But an armor bearer’s integrity should be inspiring, as should his humility and willingness to repent when he is wrong.

Is she candid, but encouraging? Half of the impact engendered by armor bearing is objectivity. Armor bearers help you question assumptions and provide perspective. They don’t rationalize poor choices, but remain gracious and encouraging, calling out the best in you and expressing belief in your ability to live it.

Is he committed to growth, both yours and his own? Outworking your faith necessitates a commitment to personal growth. None of us will reach our full potential in any area of our lives by accident. Accordingly, your armor bearers must be committed to personal growth. Otherwise, you may outgrow them.

Does she have gumption? True armor bearers are willing to stand up for you – and to you. They don’t shrink back to avoid upsetting you, in the face of adversity, or at the risk of their own reputation.

Pick the right people!

Few things will affect your life as significantly as the people in your inner circle.

Time will bring its joy and sadness, tragedy and triumph. You can’t always control your circumstances – but you can determine whom you’ll be surrounded by regardless of what happens.

Fill your inner circle with armor bearers.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on ‘armor bearing friendship‘ – the subject of an upcoming book by Jer Monson and Steve Gerali. Your thoughts will help us shape the book, so be a part of the conversation in the comments below.  You can also subscribe to stay connected to new posts on armor bearing. When you do, you can download a FREE copy of Jer’s ebook, 12 Ways to Maximize Your Next Twelve!

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