Lately, I have been observing Hannah as she interacts with other children. Most of the time, she will go right up to another child – no matter their age – try to hold their hand, give them her name, and ask them theirs. But she didn’t always try to make friends this way. In fact, if she managed to get even one kid on the playground to play with her, they were immediately her “best friend” – even if she didn’t know their name! She would cry if they didn’t want to play with her or hold her hand. Finally, I was able to get her to see that some kids aren’t as “friendly” as she is and that the first way to make a friend is to go up and introduce herself and find out their name!
You may smile at this scenario. I am certain that I am not the only mom who has dealt with this – especially if you are a mom to girls (for finding a best girlfriend seems to start at a very, very young age!). But I have been thinking about Hannah’s friendships lately and wondering if I am teaching her how to be the right kind of friend. (Thankfully, for now, I am Ephraim’s best friend, so I don’t need to worry as much about him!)
I have always put a lot of pressure on my friendships. I have always wanted someone to be loyal, honest, trustworthy, and available to me in times of crisis. When someone hurts me, it is very hard for me to continue to be their friend. My mom has always told me that I expected more out of my friends than they were willing or able to give. Over the years, I have grown in what to expect from my friends, and I am thankful to have a handful of very close friends who go above and beyond my expectations!
But because of the heartache I have had in my own friendships over the years, I am very sensitive to making Hannah into the right kind of friend – the godly kind of a friend. I don’t care if she’s popular as long as she’s the kind of friend that God wants her to be. Lost in my own humanness, I decided to search the Scripture to see what God required of friends.
1. Be friendly. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” I see many shy children, who cling to their mother’s leg when other children come to play with them. I know that shyness is common in young children, but I wonder if we should be encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zone. After all, if we are developing their character now, aren’t we allowing them to be rude and self-centered instead of friendly and concerned for others? Of course, we don’t want to terrorize our children, but maybe we could encourage small steps towards making them more friendly.
2. Don’t be easily angered. One of the areas that was a real struggle for me was getting angry with my friends when they didn’t do the things I expected them to do as my friend. I eventually realized this area of sin in my life and had to confess it. But anger is not something that should be allowed in a friendship (except for righteous anger). “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, 25 or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared” (Prov. 22:24-25). Teach your child how to handle conflict without losing their temper, and you will find they have happier and healthier friendships!
3. Be faithful. One of the hardest things about being a godly friend is being faithful to encourage our friends toward godliness. It’s easy to keep concerns to ourselves because we are worried about losing a good friend. But how good a friend are you really being if you can’t confront that person about sin in their life? Proverbs 27:6 reminds us, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Teaching our children how to confront sin while still loving the person is one of the trickiest lessons we have to teach them. But I think it’s probably also one of the most important!
4. Be encouraging. While we are told to be faithful in confronting our friends, we also need to make sure we are encouraging one another, too. This world is full of negativity, and our friends should be people we can go to when we need to be lifted up to our Savior. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I think this probably starts at home. Our children can only be as sharp as we make them, so be sure to encourage your children throughout the day – even when you are disciplining them!
These are just a few verses I found on friendship. I found out in my research that the word “friend” is used 90 times in the Bible! God certainly places a lot of importance on this relationship! And, of course, Christ was and is the ultimate example of a friend. After all, He laid down His life for us! You can’t find a better friend than that!
As we strive to encourage our children in this area of friendship, we need to set aside our own expectations of friends and look instead to what God says about this important relationship. And while we’re at it, we may as well work on our own perceptions of friendship as well!