“A friend is an affectionate acquaintance. One who loves, cares and identifies with you. Your friend stands by you in the good and bad times, rejoicing with you at your good fortune and grieving with you in losses. A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17.17).
An enemy is an opposer, a hostile person, the opposite of a friend. The word ‘Frenemy’ is therefore an oxymoron that is descriptive of an enemy acting like a friend. Frenemies can be intentionally so, while others may be well-meaning but become so, by simple errors of judgment.
The story of a palace coup in ancient Israel presents us with two characters who are typical examples of Frenemies that surround modern-day leaders.
Enter Ahitophel: wise, smart, witty, reliable and always giving the right counsel… For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God (II Samuel 16: 3B).
How come this trusted Chief Counselor of David turned against him? The truth was that he happened to be the father of Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife (II Samuel 23: 34). He had obviously been hurt by the killing of his son-in-law and David’s forced marriage of his daughter, causing him shame and embarrassment.
He pretended however to have taken everything in strides and continued to play his role in the king’s life, looking for the perfect opportunity to retaliate.
Leaders must be careful and able to discern people who are deeply hurt around them. How could a seemingly loyal counselor turn against the king suddenly? He was deeply offended and harbored resentment towards his leader. He counseled David for many years without true love for the king. He turned against the king at the first opportunity to counsel his son with no true love for the young man also. Hatred for his father was the sole motivation.
Every leader must learn to pray that God will expose the frenemies around them and also pray that God will turn the counsel of their frenemies to foolishness (II Samuel 15: 31).
David was not only prayerful, he planted a loyal mole among the men that surrounded Absalom. He arranged effective intelligence gathering and had a loyal influencer in Hushai to counter Ahitophel’s counsel.
He trusted God to watch his back but further put human measures in place to safeguard himself, his throne and Israel.
You wonder who is counseling the president of a nation to hound peaceful protesters, seize their passports, charge them to court, freeze their bank accounts and treat them like common criminals? Who is encouraging a frivolous lawsuit when the government needs to be calming frayed nerves? Who is lying to the president that it is the work of his political enemies? Who is overheating the polity with an attempt to clamp down on freedom of speech through social media? Who is prodding the government along a path that leads nowhere? Who is distracting the leader from the poverty and insecurity that is increasing in the nation and singing praises with discordant tunes? May God turn their counsels to foolishness and save the leader from such frenemies. The same prayer goes for pastors, business leaders, and everyone in a significant place of influence.
Enter Joab the Chief of Defence. Fiercely loyal to David, he did not allow any other interests to survive around the throne. Ruthless in battle, he conquered for David always. Fiercely competitive, he took opportunities to kill Abner and Amala who were his perceived competitors for the leadership of the defense forces.
However, he disobeyed the king when he deemed it fit, killing the leaders of the army and even the king’s son against clear instructions! He had been privy to the killing of Uriah and had the king’s secret in his hands. He almost ran a parallel government, having become a lord to himself in the end.
Leaders need to be discerning of power-thirsty people around them. Excellent bootlickers abound around the seat of power, pretending to be fiercely loyal but filling every power vacuum and ebbing perceived competitors out of the circle of power. Having earned the confidence of the leader, they feel they can get away with anything. They turn themselves into unofficial leaders at the end.
It’s amazing how in a nation with an aging president, such power mongers hijack the apparatus of government and hold sway over the nation with impunity. If care is not taken, they will destroy the leader’s reputation and legacies.
Leaders should be wary of them. Leaders should be wary of those who kill innocent souls, brutalize the defenseless and yet put a spin to the entire story to cover up their wickedness!
Captains of industry, spiritual leaders and heads of institutions often have them too. May such frenemies be exposed for who they really are lest the image of the leader is brought to disrepute.