Image courtesy of WebbShots on

Image courtesy of WebbShots on

As a little boy we lived not too far from some train tracks in central Pennsylvania. The trains weaved their way through the valley much the same as the West Branch of the Susquehanna River that also ran through our community. The Susquehanna was somewhat of a lazy river, having notoriety as the longest river in the continental US without commercial boat traffic. It meandered through the valley with majesty and tranquility. As little boys, my brother and I enjoyed playing with our friends both on the river and near the train tracks too, as we had to cross the tracks to get to the mountains where we loved to hike.

Down by the tracks it was pretty quiet too, like the river, until a train approached. Many little boys are fascinated with locomotives and the cargo they pull.

First of all, these trains looked really heavy. That theory was confirmed when I observed the thick steel rails they traveled on move up and down with each passing car. Second, they were really loud. There is no such thing as a quiet train. They rumbled. The noises they made included those emitted by the engine, which understandably had to be really noisy to move all of that weight; the cargo cars also made lots of noise as their steel wheels screeched across the tracks. It all just seemed like a lot of effort to transport the goods from one place to another. I learned much later that this is indeed efficient, that’s why the trains continue to hum.

Locomotives and the power that they use to tow are symbolic of the momentum that we can think of in life as we connect with the right people. Yes, relationships involve people. With that said, we can assume that they can get messy. So I was reading not too long ago about a train that flew off the tracks traveling some crazy speed well over what a turn was designed for. Pretty reckless. Slow down sparky! As a new year gets underway many people head out on a journey to rekindle old friendships, or to make new ones. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider. If you yearn for more there’s a book for that…

  • Most of the answers to finding the right people start from within. You have to get to know yourself before you can understand the dynamics of how a friendship or other personal relationship may proceed with another person. For example, if you’re an introvert, trying to be bold for the sake of making new friends may be intimidating or even overwhelming. Moreover, the people you tend to gel with during your venture as Braveheart may not fit as well when you find yourself settling back into a groove of watching Duck Dynasty or other inspirational controversy (aka, reality TV).
  • Making and keeping friends should be a conscious decision, not one of convenience or something that simply drifts you along through life like a raft on the Susquehanna. The influence your friends have in your life include the ability to change your values, character, habits and overall development to maturity. Seek wise counsel and stick close to those who you respect and who respect you as well. Remember the little engine that could… “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, huff huff huff, puff puff puff, and over the mountain he went!”
  • With that said, carefully considering your own values and interests, seek to identify people who share them. The best friends are a good influence and will help carry you through stormy weather. They will contribute to your happiness, and at the same time will tell it like it is when necessary to help keep you on an even keel. You will likely share a few common interests with them, be it fitness, travel, cooking or even the friendly banter of two goofballs (btw, these are all on my let’s-do list 🙂 ). Watersports? Cowabunga! Whatever floats your boat, or makes your train hum…
  • Keep friendships in perspective. Don’t confuse the desire to be in healthy relationships with codependency. Our relationships should be a matter of choice, and not need. This is a huge red flag to the right kind of love, when someone emphasized they need you more than they love you. Avoidance is another train wreck waiting to happen – communication is necessary in all relationships in life. If a conflict arises we can’t always take the higher road, for the sake of restoration and growth we may have to walk through the mess. (Click To Tweet)
  • Don’t let toxic people linger in your life. Recognizing that we all go through it at one time or another, we have to carry each others burdens, being compassionate and empathetic to the needs of our loved ones. That’s not really what I’m referring to here. I think many people get stuck in toxic relationships. While it may be in human nature to sin, recognize there is inherent good in most everyone (I guess this is where we break free of the sociopaths – they need professional help). If someone emits a destructive or abusive atmosphere that is intimidating or erosional it’s time to get some distance, without delay. Letting them go doesn’t mean that you hate them, it just says at some point you recognize that it’s not healthy for you or your well-being. Nothing wrong with that.

Friends. Choose them wisely. Good people will bring out the good in you, and will always be a blessing in your life.

What criteria are most important to you when you choose the people to let into close proximity?