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Life’s too short and important to surround yourself with emotional vampires, complainers, and spectators.

As much as it’s up to you, surround yourself with as many of the following people as possible:

1. Idealists

A friend of mine alluded to my ‘critical spirit’ regarding one of my blog posts. I get that a lot—along with monikers like pessimist, cynic, etc.

The truth is: I am a dyed-in-the-wool idealist. I am driven by my conviction that, with the right kinds of dialog and challenge, we can be so much more effective.

We need to be surrounded by people who eschew the status quo and look at the big picture. My life has been greatly improved by people who question whether the church is being driven by principles or pragmatism.

Believe it or not, it’s blind, melancholic optimism that drives the idealistic prophet. If they were cynical or pessimistic, they wouldn’t bother. We need them. They help us see the things we’ve become blind to.

2. Doers

It’s so easy for us to assume that, because we’re talking about spiritual things, we’re doing them. We’re often not. James warns us of this folly:

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”James 1:22

We desperately need to avoid the delusion that orthodoxy (right belief) is more important than orthopraxy (right action). If your theology isn’t blossoming into activity, it’s worthless—however right it may be.

Surround yourself with people who are moving and shaking things up. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is more inspirational than belief getting its hands dirty.

3. Givers

Nothing’s more godlike than being a giver. Isn’t that the whole point of John 3:16? God loved the world, so he gave . . .

Some would say selfishness is innate—part of our total depravity. We are at once both greedy and altruistic. And the characteristic we feed devours the attribute we starve.

Find unselfish people and follow them. Emulate them.

4. Dreamers

“My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results . . . but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it. Win or lose, I admire those who fight the good fight.”― George R. R. Martin

I love dreamers. As an idealist, I tend to see the things that are broken and desperately wish they were fixed. The weight of the world’s brokenness can get awfully heavy. Dreamers look beyond all that and see an infinite number of  majestic possibilities. I spent a good deal of the summer with a dreamer and I loved it, and envied him.

The unbridled optimism and expectation of the dreamer is contagious. If you don’t have someone who is able to coax goodness you never knew existed out of places you never thought to look, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Word of warning: dreamers often look like simpletons—it’s easy to miss them.

5. Lovers

I love the way the NIV translates the second half of Galatians 5:6:

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

I don’t know of a more challenging or beautiful sentiment. Left to my own devices, I’m not much of a lover. I can be a pretty exacting critic of others. I need the unsullied influence of people who can love others despite their foibles and faults.

I can promise you this: regular and unchecked proximity to hard-hearted people will make you callous. And nothing is so sweetly convicting as being with people who treat others well, speak of people in kind and generous ways, and generally attribute value to them.

You can’t completely avoid poisonous people, but you can make a concerted effort to create a community out of the best individuals. The trick to becoming the person you wish you were is to seek out those attributes in others.

©2010, Kate Ter Haar