Who we choose as friends can be a major factor in shaping the person we become but very often we don't really choose friendships, we sort of fall into them. Sometimes that's a blessing - I think of friends I've found along the way who have spurred me on to be a better man and Christian. But sometimes it can go the other way. Many a parent has watched with consternation as an impressionable child fell in with a group of 'friends' more likely to do harm than good.
Aristotle observed three kinds of friendships: those built on pleasure, those built on mutual benefit, and those built on virtue. The first two aren't necessarily bad, but they can be short lived. When the fun stops or when we no longer find value in the relationship, it can dry up. It's not necessarily that we discard the other person like so much flotsam it's just that the things that kept the friendship alive are no longer there. The glue has come unstuck. Nor does it necessarily have to be a bad thing - we live in a mobile society and only have so much room for relationships so a certain amount of relational flexibility is needed.
But the third kind of friendship, based on virtue or shared values, is rare and precious. Aristotle saw virtue as the basis of a lifelong friendships. As I contemplate my close long term friendships (which, at nearly 52, are few and far between), shared values is the main reason I still cherish them. Often we don't even have shared interests, except for Christ.
Proverbs 13.20 says, "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm."
In other words, choose your friends wisely. But if so many of our friendships are accidental - common interests, business associations, social groups - can we be more deliberate about friendships? It's a bit creepy to go up to a stranger and say, 'Will you be my friend?' (unless you're six, then it's a great strategy).
One way is to hang out where wise people are! You're more likely to fall into a friendship with the wise if you are in proximity to the wise (and you're more likely to avoid harm if you stay away from fools). Probably not the night club, then. Hopefully the church or parachurch ministries. Maybe service organisations - the wise often seek to make the lives of others better.
But deep friendships need to be nurtured and once we've identified friends - remembering that this cuts both ways, they also need to recognise something in us - then we need to be proactive. This is easier in the church where we can ask someone to be a regular prayer or Bible study partner. I've noticed that lasting friends often holiday together. And the answer to what is the relational glue that holds people together, apart from Jesus, is almost always… coffee.