The challenge before a discipler is how to get to know the heart of his disciple. I propose one reliable way to understand your disciple is by observing his friendships.
Getting to know your disciple may prove difficult because he may not know himself. An indicator of this lack of self-knowledge is the contradiction between his sincerity in trying to answer all your questions honestly, but somehow his answers do not correlate with his actions.
Throughout childhood a person creates an inward maze of defenses so complex that he can lose himself. He has also constructed an outward façade so that the person with whom you are talking is much like interacting with an actor on the stage. He has played so many roles for so long that he no longer understands who he is or why he does what he does.
Man is a spiritual being. Not only do we communicate with one another in words and body language, but our inner spirit also communicates subliminal messages to others. An example of this is how the rebels at a youth camp can find one another within the first hours. Another illustration of this subspace communication is how alcoholics can instantly pick out one another in a crowd and discern if they are telling the truth. An alcoholic cannot lie to another alcoholic.
Your disciple has transmitted these subliminal signals for years right past his parents, youth pastors, and teachers. Who does pick up on these cryptic communications are others with the same heart condition.
These subliminal signals cut through defensives and facades and connect with people of like heart. The study of your disciple’s friends is a reliable diagnostic tool to understand your disciple’s inner man. It is also important for your disciple to analyze his friendships so that he too can understand his heart. There is a reason he has chosen the friends that he has and why those friends have chosen him.