“Bad company corrupts good character.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33
A wise philosopher once said, “If you hang out with bad people, bad things are going to happen, but if you hang out with good people, good things are going to happen.” I had the privilege of being acquainted with that wise philosopher a number of years ago. His name was Robert, and Robert knew what he was talking about; for once upon a time, as he would be quick to admit, he had started hanging out with some bad people which led to a life of drug addiction, petty crime, and living on the streets. Thankfully, though, Robert eventually met and began hanging out with some good people who helped him turn his life around into a one of sobriety, honest work, a roof over his head, and most importantly friends he could depend on to be a positive influence.
Many of us perhaps can identify with Robert’s story in that we have had some experience hanging out with both good and bad people. I recall being in fifth grade when this new kid moved into our block. I started hanging around him and thought he was one cool guy because, being two or three years older, he knew all sorts of “worldly” things I had never been exposed to. My parents never said anything about my friendship with him, but being the good parents they were, maintained a watchful eye on the situation. Soon, though, I realized that guy was not leading me down a good path. And how did I know that? Because up until then I had always hung out with good people, the same crowd to which I quickly returned. Fortunately, that whole episode was short-lived, but it exposed me first-hand to what that wise philosopher Robert would put into words years later.
I don’t recall that neighbor kid ever asking or forcing me to do anything I shouldn’t have done. It was just that hanging around him sort of rubbed off. What ultimately kept me away from the trouble I could have gotten into is that hanging out with good people had rubbed off even more. Isn’t that the way it seems to work, though, that our character develops not so much from what we are told or taught, but what simply rubs off?
“Bad company corrupts good character,” the Apostle Paul warned, just as that neighborhood kid almost did with me. But that wise philosopher Robert would also testify that good company can have the opposite impact, transforming bad character into good. What an awesome responsibility, that our own character rubs off on someone else!