This is a generation of fragmented friendships … friendships that are often reduced to an “accept” click on Facebook or seven word texts. Even when kids are together, they spend a lot of time looking at separate screens – not sharing their deepest thoughts, biggest fears or chatting about … well … about things kids should be chatting about.
Television and movies don’t help the situation. “Mean girls” hurl nasty barbs at each other. “Mean boys” curse at the slightest offense.
Some schools are escalating the damage by eliminating even the occasional one-on-one time between friends. Administrators have rules that students aren’t allowed to have “best friends”, but must only play in groups – so that no one feels the pain of a broken friendship.
But here’s the truth. Life is painful. Very painful. And God created friendships because we need people to help us through that pain. Childhood is a time when we learn how to develop those friendships. Childhood is the time we learn to cope with heartache … but also experience the security of having a friend watch our back. Childhood (and the teens) are a time we learn to build strong relationships. (And many of us are still friends with those kids we met while growing up.)
A friend and I were discussing all this while enjoying breakfast at Panera on Saturday … and our discussion resulted in an interesting question. Do parents and churches teach kids how to be good friends? If not, is that something we should be teaching kids?
I think so.
Paul wrote to the church at Colossae and to all Christians (adults and kids alike): Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Are those words not the ingredients of a good friendship?
And maybe the best way to teach friendship is to model friendship.
By being best friends with our husband and wife. Genesis 2:24 –Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
We should enjoy being with our spouses. We should share our deepest secrets with our spouses (and not the neighbor down the street or the ladies in our Bible study). We should have 100% trust in each other and not complain about our spouses to other people. Yes, we will have some separate interests (I still don’t get into football), but we should also have many, many shared interests. Our kids notice that. They see that Dad and Mom are a team and that they enjoy being together.
(I understand that many reading this are in broken relationships or are single parents because of a variety of circumstances. You can still model friendship to your children through the way you relate to other family members.)
By caring for the friends we have outside of our families.
Do our kids hear us gossiping about our friends to other so-called friends? (Proverbs 16:28)
Do we get offended easily? (Proverbs 17:9)
Do our kids see us gravitating toward the friend who has the tickets to the basketball game or the big house with the pool? Or do they see us being kind to all our friends at all times? (Proverbs 19:4)
Do they see us being trustworthy or do we break trust by sharing confidences with others? (Proverbs 27:6)
Do they see us abandoned our friends when the going gets tough? (Proverbs 27:10)
By thanking the Lord for the greatest gift of friendship possible – giving up one’s life as the Lord Himself did for us. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down His life for His friends. (John 15:13)
In this world of fragmented friendships, our kids need to understand that friendship is a God-given gift, a gift He has given to us. A gift He encourages us to give to others. No, that doesn’t mean laying down our life for another person as Christ did for us, but it does mean over-the-top caring, encouragement and concern for our friends. Because – friendship is a gift to strengthen, a gift to hold on to, a gift to nurture.
We don’t need to pull our children away from making good friends (as some school systems are doing), but should, instead, model friendship for them. We should encourage them to form relationships with like-minded kids who will be there for them – not only in the third grade, but maybe … just maybe … for many years to come.