Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: "The Company You Keep"

TITLE: THE COMPANY YOU KEEP - the Transforming Power of Male Friendship
AUTHOR: David C Bentall
PUBLISHER: Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Books, 2004, (194 pages).

The Company You Keep: The Transforming Power Of Male FriendshipI picked this book up in Church a few months ago. It was donated by a generous friend. David Bentall is a well-known businessman in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This book unpacks his journey and learnings about friendship, in particular friendship among fellow males. His acknowledgement is like a list of who's who, especially in evangelical circles. People like Dr Leighton Ford, Stan Grenz and Dr James Houston. He describes his perspective of friendship as one that is taught by observing his father, who during his darkest times, 'still had two shining rays of light - his faith in God and his circle of friends.' (x)

In this book, he writes the following eight convictions about friendship that transforms. I have capitalize the active words for easy follow.

  1. To AFFIRM one another;
  2. To be AVAILABLE to one another (in proper relation to our commitments to marriage and family);
  3. To PRAY with and for one another;
  4. To be OPEN with one another;
  5. To be HONEST with one another;
  6. To TREAT one another with sensitivity;
  7. To KEEP our discussions confidential;
  8. To be ACCOUNTABLE to one another.
He highlights the following reason why we need friendship. Taking a leaf from CS Lewis's The Four Loves, which states friendship as the 'least natural of loves,' and the 'least instinctive,' Bentall argues for a determination to form intentional friendships, and not yield to a lazy disinclination away from others toward self.

"It goes against the natural grain of our world. We are driven out of necessity and instinct to invest time in earning money and being with family. While there is no biological need for friendship, there is a very human need and desire for friendship. Still, with the demands of life, it often falls to the bottom of our priority list. Men should fight hard against this inclination by being intentional and purposeful in developing friendships." (xiii)

In Part One, where the author deals with "Why Friendship Matters," he talks about the barriers to friendship created by negative media portrayal, society's emphasis on self-sufficiency, fear of sexual overtones, and how people are increasingly more private. All of these negate any desire to develop friendships. He then hones in on the need for relationships through the four things men everywhere needs.

  • to know and be known;
  • to love and be loved;
  • to celebrate and be celebrated;
  • to serve and be served.
All of these cannot be done alone. In other words, Bentall's 'new view' of friendships stem from an acknowledgement that we need one another. 

In Part Two, Bentall goes into the details of forming good friendships. Point by point, he argues and tries to convince readers to take the plunge to build relationships. He addresses criticisms, the need to carve time out, crisis needs, sharing weaknesses, listening, confidentiality and many more.

In Parts Three and Four, the author goes into the details of how friendships can benefit one's other relationships, both laterally and heavenly.

Book Pastor Comments
This book is clearly one that is written for the men in mind. Typically, Bentall will first define the problem. He then reasons why the problem exists. Finally, he gives guidelines as to how to develop good friendships. He gives out clear pointers like a question and answer format. He does not meander aimlessly from one thought to another, but sits by the side of the reader, intentionally and purposefully moving one toward a greater appreciation and practical application of friendship building. 

I suspect the title of the book is adapted from Dr James Houston book on prayer, "The Transforming Power of Prayer: Deepening your friendship with God." With Bentall's personal friendship with Dr Houston, I will not be surprised. I will venture to suggest that for Christians, prayer and friendship goes hand in hand. That said, we can use Dr Houston's book to learn on prayer, and David Bentall's book to learn how to go about loving one another, through building meaningful relationships. 

One of the most powerful chapters is 11, where Bentall reveals the need to establish accountability with one another. Men by nature are not exactly social animals. In a society where independence is preferred, loneliness is the sad counterpart. Worse, out of the lack of relationships, men often do stumble and fall. It is not difficult to read about top leaders in all industries who stumble and fall into temptation, due to the lack of accountability groups.
"The key to a successful accountability relationship between friends is to voluntarily submit to one another rather than to stand over each other in judgment." (100)
I recommend this book in particular for men. Start early. Start young. Do not wait until our hairs are all grayed out before taking any action. Good friendships are like wine. It gets better and more meaningful with age. If you are in the Men's ministry, or belongs to a group of men, you may want to consider using this book as a guide to build friendships that transform.


No comments:

Post a Comment