“Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company . . .” – Proverbs 24:1
While cleaning out my parents’ house several years ago after they had passed away we came across a copy of a letter my dad had written to a judge on behalf of a young man charged with drug possession. The young man had once worked for my dad and had been a decent, dependable, hard-working employee. The obvious intention of the letter was to urge leniency from the judge as my dad believed the boy to be deep down a good person. “I think he just got mixed up with the wrong crowd,” my dad said in his plea.
Who among us would not agree that we are all products of the people we hang out with – good or bad? It is why parents encourage their children to participate in things like Scouts (boys and girls), team sports, music programs, church youth groups, and other positive activities, so they will be exposed to good influences. After all, if we hang out with smart people we become smarter, with good athletes we become better athletes, with good musicians we sing or play better, or with generally good people we are more inclined to live like they live. Likewise, hanging out with the wrong crowd will most certainly influence us in negative ways.
For many years now I’ve been meeting with a group of men on Tuesday mornings for the sole purpose of influencing each other in positive ways. We use our time together to pray, share something about our relationship with God, what we are reading or studying to help us grow in knowledge and spirit, and things we are doing to serve God and mankind. Thankfully, over time I have become a product of these fine men I hang out with on Tuesday morning. But regrettably there have been a few times in my life when I’ve chosen the wrong crowd, and without fail it has led to misery of some form.
The young man my dad defended had become a product of the crowd he hung out with, but that doesn’t release him from responsibility for making that choice, nor am I excused from my own poor choices. We must choose our friends and those we hang out with wisely; for we are products of their influence. I pray that young man eventually got mixed up with the right crowd, and became the man my dad believed he could be.