Who Do You Hang With?

by Amy Sander Montanez

So much of what’s true in life seems to have a paradoxical nature, doesn’t it? Like a hologram, you can look at it one way and see a very clear image, and then shift it just slightly and see a completely different picture. Over and over I am struck with the multi-facetedness of most things, especially the political, philosophical, theoretical, psychological, and theological.

My daughter and I have been discussing a statement that has come into both of our lives in the last year. It has several modifications, but basically it goes something like this. “You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.” Business associates, anxious boyfriends, mentors, and yoga teachers, not to mention every aspect of popular culture, have said it to us. I am sure I said it to her at some point in her adolescence, and I suspect it was probably said to me at the same point in my development.

So I hold the hologram up and I see it from that perspective. When we surround ourselves with good people, people who have the same moral and ethical standards we have, people who are striving for the same things in life, we are helping ourselves in so many ways. We lessen the temptations that could come our way. The positive energy of others can impact us in positive ways. The network of people like this is beneficial. We have others we can call on to support and help us. We spend less time and energy having to define and hold on to ourselves. There is less drama. In family and marital matters, it really helps. A friend of mine told me her mentor said to “Surround yourself with stars.” It just makes life a lot easier. It makes a lot of sense. I’ve experienced it. It works.

And then there’s Jesus. And then the hologram looks different. At first glance, Jesus doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the positive qualities of those he chose to hang around with. He certainly wasn’t surrounding himself with “stars”. The apostle Peter was impulsive and impetuous, not to mention the fact that in the end he was a lousy friend. Thomas couldn’t really decide how he felt about Jesus. Matthew was a tax collector and seemed to have a rather rigid personality. Jesus also spent a good deal of time with women and children who weren’t exactly considered status friends. He hung out with lepers and a Samaritan woman who was living with a man out of wedlock, and he ate dinner wherever they would feed him. He didn’t seem at all interested in protecting his moral and ethical standards, nor did he seem interested in what others could do for him. If Jesus was “only as good as the people he surrounded himself with”, he wouldn’t be our model and teacher. He wouldn’t be Jesus the Christ.

So what makes Jesus different? I am thinking it has a lot to do with how much time he spent in prayer, in communion with God. And by spending this kind of time, he must have been centered and grounded in a way most of us don’t experience. It didn’t matter who he was with, he knew who he was. He knew that the values of the popular culture wouldn’t make him happy, would not bring him peace, nor would they bring about God’s reality (the kingdom of God) which he so zealously wanted to bring to us. He knew in his inner most being what was really important, what mattered and was going to matter, and he carried this wisdom with him to those he hung around with. At the very end of his earthly life, he knew that death was not the worst thing that could happen. Selling his soul would be worse. Being someone he was not would be worse.

And so, holding the hologram up one way, we probably get some very important needed support from hanging around the kind of people we are and want to be. Looking at it that way, we are whom we hang out with. Maybe Jesus got all he needed from hanging around God. And just as Jesus did, we need to hang around God a lot, too. When we are centered and grounded in God, we can branch out and stand sure in what we believe and who we are. When we spend time in prayer and contemplation, when we retreat from the popular culture and let ourselves be reminded of what is really important, then we can turn and look at the hologram another way. When we know who we are, we can hang out with all kinds of people, holding steady and fast to the truth as we know it. Then we are a light to those not like us. Then we aren’t afraid of those who are different from us, who society tells us are unclean or unimportant or less than us. Then we can be like Jesus the Christ, sure of who we are and able to carry that assuredness with us.

©2012. Amy Sander Montanez, D.Min, has been a licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage & family therapist and spiritual director for over twenty years.  She blogs weekly at Amy Sander Montanez

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