Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another - Proverbs 27:17 (NRSV)
Some people are easy to get along with. They don't question my motives. If they don't understand what I say, they ask for clarification. They give me the benefit of the doubt. There are virtually no harsh words between us. With other people, especially my closest family and friends, I have occasional clashes. Something is taken the wrong way and brings a defensive response. Or I am labeled as selfish or insensitive. Or my friend/relative speaks frankly about an annoying trait.
So why choose to associate with people who don't even like me part of the time? The verse from the Book of Proverbs at the top of this post might shed some light on this. Sometimes it takes sparks to sharpen a metal tool, honing it to a sharp edge. If the people around me spoke well of me all the time, how would I become aware of character flaws? How would I work on my ability to handle criticism without falling apart emotionally? Who would challenge my thinking?
I like comfortable times with comfortable friends. But I also value friendships that have seen hard times and survived. Our friendship has been tested by the winds of adversity and we have chosen to hold on to it because the value we find in it outweighs the pain of the occasional conflicts between us.
“We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him.” - Montaigne, Michel Eyquem De