Iron sharpens iron. So one man sharpens another.—Proverbs 27:17
You may hear an argument described as people “fighting like cats and dogs.” But dogs and cats apparently aren’t always enemies. Recently I was watching the cable TV show Secrets of the Zoo, which showed yellow labs being partnered with abandoned cheetah cubs. The results are adorable and potentially life-saving.
Cheetahs, it turns out, are skittish animals. Labs are not. The labs help their feline besties develop confidence, an important trait in wild animals. Dogs also provide comfort and companionship. The unlikely pairs become like siblings who play and do life together.
Upon watching the show, my mind immediately began playing through some of my unlikely relationships, including my marriage. These unlikely relationships are some of my most treasured ones. Here’s why.
People who aren’t just like us help us identify and address our weaknesses. Think about it. Someone who is just like you is going to see everything your way. But someone who approaches life differently—maybe as the result of maturity, culture or life experience—won’t be as blind to your shortcomings. And this is a good thing.
They’re more likely to speak truth into your life. This applies, of course, only to people with whom we share a common faith. We all occasionally need someone to hold up a stop sign as we’re about to venture down a dark path.
They inspire us to grow. Your friends who walk to a different drummer will encourage you to rethink how you communicate with and view others. They can help us tap into parts of ourselves we didn’t know were there. In the best-case scenario, they inspire us to dive deep into God’s word in search of wisdom and direction. An older woman can see shadows of her former self in a younger woman she’s mentoring, and she can help her turn from or even avoids the rash mistakes of youth. A person from a different culture can help us to understand how to share our faith with greater effectiveness and sensitivity.
They help us tear down walls. Once you experience a friendship that breaks the mold of demographics or takes you outside your comfort zone in terms of personality, you’re more open to other unlikely relationships. Your world becomes a bigger, more loving place. Like the Grinch, your heart will continue to grow. You’ll be less likely to assess people in terms of how alike or different they are and more likely to look at them through the eyes of God’s grace. You’ll see them as people of infinite worth and value in the eyes of their Creator. And the more you love, the more like Jesus you will become.