In my 41 years of being a girl, I have had to endure the coming and going of friends, sometimes even having to deal with dreaded “mean girls.” Being a minister’s daughter, we moved a lot and I was always having to make new friends. Most of the time, I was trying to prove that I could
be tough when friendships didn’t workout. When you move a lot, you learn a lot. You learn to hide your feelings and blend so as to not call attention to yourself. Andy moved a lot too, so we both share that commonality of understanding how it feels to try and fit in and sometimes wanting to crawl under a rock so I wouldn’t be noticed. Now that we are raising our kids, we want them to learn from our experiences but Jesus’ life is the perfect example of whom to mirror with respect to friendships. Below are some thoughts for my kids on handling friendships, just as Jesus did, especially when struggling with the trials and tribulations of our life here on earth.
- God has a plan for you. Friends and their experiences help you grow into the person He is designing you to be. Sometimes even negative friendship experiences are a good thing. You learn from them and discover the type of friendships in which you’ll thrive best. Reading the Bible together, we show our children that every part of it points back to the plan of Jesus’ birth, life, resurrection and second coming. If God was able to plan that out over hundreds of years, certainly He has our lives planned out as well.
- Friends really do come and go and that’s okay. There are many different seasons in your life. Just because you are doing gymnastics now and have awesome teammates, doesn’t mean you or they will always be doing gymnastics together. Maybe one day, you’ll play tennis and develop new friends and your old friends’ schedules won’t mesh. It’s part of taking your journey and finding those golden nuggets along the way. You can still be friends but maybe not just as close as you were before. Who knows, maybe your paths will cross again and a friendship will be re-kindled. Life is really a journey so don’t burn bridges. You never know how people can grow and change and the best qualities of that person may once again shine through. Those who love you will stick by you and those friends are the ones that God has chosen for you. Jesus even lost people during his ministry but the ones that God wanted near him stayed by his side. In John chapter 6, we see disciples walking away from Jesus because of the truth he was preaching, however those that stayed, loved him deeply. In the end, know that God will foster the friendships He wants you to have.
- Friends should always encourage but also offer a constructive criticism in a loving way (when appropriate). So your friend is having a bad day but yelling at her isn’t going to help her realize that her emotions need to be checked. Approaching her in a loving way to ask if she’s okay and then maybe explaining that everyone is worried about her behavior may be a better approach. Offer her a hug and tell her you love her. Remind her that just because she’s having a bad day today doesn’t mean it will last and perhaps one day you’ll think back and laugh at everything that occurred. If people are heated, emotional and uncontrollable, walk away until you can talk in a calm manner. Hurtful words can never be taken back and always cause heartache to those who said and received them. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus even offers a prescription of how to talk to friends who have hurt you, approaching in love but with firmness.
- Toxic friendships are never okay. When friends cause you to change who you are in your heart then something is wrong. Gossiping about each other or people outside your circle, treating people in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated, excluding others on purpose are things that you only thought would occur in movies about teen drama queens. There is a reason movies are made about those situations–because they happen. You will not want to hangout and be close to every person out there, but God always wants you to be kind and encouraging. Jesus says to bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you, Luke 6:28. If you see behavior that is toxic, walk away from it but pray that those people will one day know God and change their hearts.
- It’s okay to love even if you don’t receive love back. This is the hardest one to teach because so often in our society love is delivered with expectations of love being returned. Many times, it isn’t and it’s hard to understand why. We must remember that Jesus loved even when he was hated and mocked. Even as he was hanging on the cross, Jesus asked his Father to forgive those who were standing by, scoffing at his torturous death. John 23:34.
Moving to different places throughout my life was God’s way of preparing me to guard my heart and learn from my past. True Christ-like friendships are a gift and are special. When God places people in your life, you’ll know and feel it. Sometimes, it is for them to love you but every time, it is for you to love them.