Once upon a time, there was little girl with the most sensitive little spirit. She wanted desperately to have friends, to join in the conversations of the other fifth grade girls, to feel included. As she listened to the girls talk about music, she excitedly shared a song she had just heard and how it had touched her heart. The other girls brushed her comment off as if it were old news.
Have you ever felt that way? Whether you are boy or girl, young or old, relationships with other humans often feel impossible to navigate.
The Journey of Friendship
I was that little girl mentioned above, and I continued to have experiences like that as I grew up until I built a wall of judgment and pride to protect my bitter, hurt heart. It wasn’t until college that I realized how emotionally and relationally needy I was…and how little I knew about being a friend. As the Lord kindly put people in my life to love me and care for me, I began to slowly heal from my bitterness, to gain perspective, and to learn how to be a good friend to others. As I continue my journey in adulthood, I am still learning how to navigate these beautiful gifts made sticky by our cracked souls. Here are a few thoughts to give perspective and maybe to spark some conversations in your family.
Friendship is sacrificial
For many years, I was so bitter and hurt that I became extremely selfish. I was opinionated, thought I was always right, and talked way more than I listened. I was more concerned with myself and my needs than those around me. Remember what Christ said…put others needs above your own!
Friendship takes time
While there are rare instances of two people connecting immediately, this is not usually the case. Friendship requires spending time together, experiencing life together, and learning to serve one another. I have some friends that just now feel like we are close friends…after three years. Take the time. Put in the work.
There are different types of friendships
There are some people in your life that are detrimental to your most important relationships (God, family, etc.). Often, too much time with these people results in poor choices, tempted hearts, and a negative change of attitude. Sometimes, it is best not to spend time with these people at all. Minimal time may be okay within certain parameters.
Then there are friends who are like I was for many years…lonely, needy, emotional, sensitive. Sometimes they are quiet and hard to notice, sometimes they are loud and boisterous. They need people to model friendship for them and love them where they are. Dialogue with your student on how to love these people. Under the influence of love and grace from peers, these people will blossom!
Finally, there are those bosom friends who love and serve and cherish you just as much as you love them. These relationships foster growth in character and behavior, love for Christ and family, a contented heart in every circumstance in life, a safe place to pour out challenges and hurts, and a source of encouragement and forgiveness. They are life-giving.
To close, here are a few questions to help you evaluate the relationships in your life.
- What category do most of my friends fall into?
- Do the people I spend most of my time with encourage a heart of thankfulness?
- Do most of my friends encourage me to love and honor God and my family?
- Do most of my friends try to get me to do things that the Bible says are wrong, or that I believe are wrong?
- Which category do I fall into?
- Do I encourage my friends as mentioned in 2 and 3, or tempt as in 4?
May we all continue to grow in love for our Lord and those around us!