NOTE: This article appeared in the July issues of Forward and Velocity Magazines.
I remember the first time I saw a street drug. I was in seventh grade standing at my locker when my best friend opened his hand to reveal something I’d never seen before. He said, “Hey, want to try one?” In that moment I knew that how I answered that question would most likely decide the fate of my relationship with my friend. I told him “No.” After that day, our relationship would never be the same.
My friend wanted me to be who he wanted me to be, who he had become – a druggie. I missed hanging out with him after that day. But, I’m so glad I said ”no.” Had I not, I too would have probably ended up where he eventually did – prison.
Finding and keeping healthy friendships that honor God isn’t always easy. But it’s an important step toward being who God wants you to be. Strong friendships require a strong commitment. And, doing the right thing sometimes requires a willingness to walk away from a friendship that is not honoring to God.
Lasting friendships take work. Even when you put a lot into a friendship, things can still go south, as was the case with my friendship in middle school. Though you can’t control what your friends do and, ultimately, who they become, you can choose to be the kind of friend who does what is right time and again.
Here’s what you need to remember:
1. Be Loyal.
Loyalty to your friends means that you:
Overlook their personality quirks.
Don’t talk behind their backs.
2. Be Honest.
True friendship = honesty. Sometimes in order to be a good friend, you have to be willing to confront your friends about an unhealthy behavior. Doing this can help them see their real selves by removing the masks that cover their true identities, their fears, or the ungodly lifestyle they may be embracing.
3. Be a Stander.
There may be times when standing for what is right will cost you a friendship. It did me in seventh grade. You can’t control the choices of your friends. You can try to be a friend who encourages them to do the right things in life, and calls them out when they step out of bounds. They may get angry with you. They may resent you. But whether your friend chooses to listen or not isn’t on you. So, be confident and be true to who you are, even when your friends don’t like it or don’t approve of it.
4. Be You.
A true friend will never require you to change to gain their acceptance. If you find you have to reinvent yourself to fit in or be accepted by someone, then you’re probably not in a genuine friendship. A friend should never determine your choices. And if you let them do this, you’re not doing your part to make the friendship the most it can be. Losing yourself in order to be accepted by someone else is never the right way to go. Plus, your friend won’t gain anything from the friendship if you simply act like their clone. You should be sharing your best qualities with your friends rather than hiding them so you can fit in.
5. Be a Pusher.
Be a friend who pushes others toward a committed relationship with God. Challenge them to spend time with him by reading the Bible and praying. Encourage them to pursue God’s plan for their lives so they can also become the person God wants them to be.
6. Be God’s Friend.
The best way to be a good friend to others is to learn from the One who wrote the book on friendships. Just as your earthly friendships require time, you can’t learn from God until you commit time to Him.
Remember, life isn’t about acquiring as many friends as you can. Rather than competing to be everybody’s friend, be wise in choosing a few friends you can do life with. Meaningful friendships don’t always come easy. And there’ll be times when distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy friendships will be hard. But as you commit to stay in consistent communication with God, He’ll give you wisdom to know the difference.
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Jeffrey Dean is a family influencer, author, and counselor whose mission is to help build strong families. For information about having Jeffrey speak in your community, contact our office.