My grandson Sean got me to watch a documentary on the life and career of will.i.am, one of the most gifted and influential performers and producers in the world of hip-hop/pop music. With the Black Eyed Peas, the group he helped establish and shape during the past twenty years, will.i.am has won seven Grammy Awards, eight American Music Awards, a Billboard Music Award, a Teen Choice Award, two MTV Video Music Awards, and three World Music Awards.
Raised by a single mother in one of the most gang-dominated housing projects in Boyle Heights, LA, will.i.am (then William Adams) was seen as different from an early age. He took advantage of educational opportunities in a progressive charter school, and while he was still in high school, he was establishing himself as a promising musician.
I found the entire documentary very interesting, but there was one thing will.i.am said to the interviewer that I thought was at the heart of his success. He stressed the importance of making an early decision to choose your close friends carefully and to stick with them. One of the current members of the Black Eyed Peas was his closest friend in high school, and they’re still together. The others in his entourage are all people with high standards and shared goals. He credits these long-term healthy friendships with stabilizing and under-girding his career throughout the years.
I thought about how many other celebrities have crashed and burned, often because of the people who surround them, attracted by their fame, their money and the excitement of the lifestyles they live. Lots of people want to be their “friends” when they have it all, but these tend to be the kind of people who are users, who suck life from them, rather than adding anything to them. We read every day about people in the public eye — entertainers, politicians, the rich and famous — who are in and out of rehabilitation, or who are in and out of volatile relationships. How much of this could have been prevented if they had made a decision early in their careers to cultivate and value good, positive, solid friendships?
You may not be a celebrity, but you live in the same confusing, tempting, slippery world as they do. Ultimately, your best hope is to be firmly anchored in your personal relationship with God. But God has also provided you with a way to supplement this with a kind of second anchor — good, faithful friends. Here’s some good advice from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)
There are four metaphors here for the power of positive friendships: (1) working together at a task (“good reward for their toil”); (2) helping each other up when one stumbles; (3) keeping each other warm in bed; (4) making a stronger rope by twisting the strands together. I kind of like the last metaphor; it is intriguing to think about how true friends’ lives are “twisted together.” And if having one “twisted together” friend strengthens you, having two will make you even stronger. A “cord of three strands” makes a pretty good anchor rope, even in life’s most violent storms.
–Pastor George Van Alstine