Way back in the late ‘80s, a chick-flick named “Beaches” featured a song called “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler. While the film itself was largely forgettable, the song rose to the top of the Billboard singles chart and won two Grammy Awards.
It became No. 1 elsewhere, too. You might be surprised to know it was the most-played song at British funerals, according to a 2002 poll in the United Kingdom. Maybe their version of the old gospel hymn, “I’ll Fly Away”?
The film is about two women who, despite very different backgrounds and personalities, become BFFs before anyone ever heard the term, “best friends forever.” They encourage and hold each other up through an assortment of personal hardships, hence the “wind beneath my wings” metaphor.
When I heard this song again recently on an oldies radio station, it struck me that there basically two kinds of friends – those who serve as wings and others who serve as weights. Wing-friends are those who uplift us emotionally, spiritually and sometimes even physically. My friend, Dave, whose way-too-early passing we remembered a couple of weeks ago, was one of those.
I remember the day we sat down in a restaurant and he told me about how he had started his non-profit, Leaders Legacy. I was looking to change jobs at the time and Dave commented, “If you need a place where you can flourish and become everything God wants you to be, we’ve got a place for you.” Within a few months I joined the Leaders Legacy team and it indeed has become a place where I could accomplish many things I’d never dreamed of doing.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have a number of friends like that, people who encouraged me and sometimes saw things in me I couldn’t see myself. We all need those kinds of friends at various stages in our lives.
Unfortunately, there are other “friends” who prove to be more like weights, whether by being poor influences, tempting us to head in directions we should avoid, or by failing to uplift us with words of affirmation and encouragement. Sadly, millions of people find themselves surrounded by supposed friends who more closely resemble weights than wings.
Perhaps the reasoning is it’s better to have unhealthy friendships than to have no friends at all. But life’s too short to spend it hanging out only with folks that bring us down and constantly dampen our spirits. We all need those who help to provide “wind beneath our wings.” But how do we find them?
Of course, followers of Christ know He’s the one who ultimately fulfills that role. But God also has known from the beginning, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We all need someone “with skin on” to accompany us through this journey called life. So the Scriptures offer some helpful criteria for us in choosing who that should be.
Proverbs 27:17 states, for example, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We need people to sharpen us, who can challenge and inspire us in becoming everything God has designed for us to be. Along the same lines, the writer of Hebrews 10:24 admonishes us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
If we want to hear bad, disheartening news, we don’t have to search far. We’re surrounded by it. So we must be intentional in seeking out people who act like good news when they show up and uplift us with their positive, affirming interaction. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
We all need such edifying people in our lives. But even more, we should strive to be people like that for others. This is why Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 admonishes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up…. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Weights or wings? Which will it be?