A recent study conducted at the prestigious Harvard Medical School and published in the authoritative "New England Journal of Medicine" has unearthed a (pardon the pun!) weighty fact: If you hang around overweight people, you increase the risk of becoming overweight yourself.

Makes you wonder what significant insight could come next, doesn't it? Some researcher is likely to discover that driving fast on a winding mountain road with your hands in your lap increases your risk of an automobile accident. Why, I can even imagine that a hefty grant could be spent to prove that students who miss class, fail to do assignments, and sleep during exams make lower grades.

To be fair, the study referenced above was actually part of a federal study of heart disease over a 32-year period. It wasn't just about fat friends making it easier for people to get fat. But that finding got press and air time. It was as if stating the obvious wasn't enough. There needed to be a serious study to prove that pot bellies, love handles, thunder thighs, and chubby cabooses run in packs.

Before you get angry with me, let me hasten to say that my intention here is not to pick on people who are overweight. More than one person has recently pointed out that I could stand to lose a few pounds! I'm only using this state-the-obvious study to make this state-the-obvious point: The people you hang with take you to their loves, their lifestyles, their habits, and their fates.

It didn't take Harvard to convince me that I become like the people I choose as my friends. It started back in fourth grade in Mrs. Whaley's homeroom. I was impressed with the "cuss words" of some of the guys at recess that I had never heard at home. I hung around with them and learned every one. And it made me feel big and tough. Then Mrs. Whaley heard one of them come from my mouth and threatened to tell my mother if it ever happened again. Thus ended a cursing career that seemed destined to make a sailor of me.

Parents had better care about the kids our own kids choose as friends. Employers had better deal with people found to be slackers or corner-cutters or thieves. If one of us is shocked at the things going on among the people she has chosen as friends, she'd better take stock of how compromised she is already.

The Bible, common sense, and now the "New England Journal of Medicine" all say the same thing: Be careful about the friendships you form, for those friendships in turn form you. It just makes sense, then, to choose wisely.

Be careful about the friendships you form!

Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33 TNIV).