Friendship on Purpose: A Letter to My Daughters by Karen Brown
We made a list of supplies and will scour the stores for just the right binders, backpacks, and notebooks.
We’ve budgeted and will shop carefully for outfits that are practical, appropriate, and expressive.
You are pretty much ready, except for one thing.
We haven’t done anything to prepare you to sift though a big, new group of people in the hope of making godly friends. Often, the friendships that you have in middle school and high school can influence you so much more than your classes, supplies, and clothes. Therefore, I’d like to offer some advice and encouragement, to be just as intentional about getting ready for this part of your new school year. You can begin now to prepare to make friendships. You can do this…on purpose.
First of all, start with your heart. Pray now, over this summer, that God will give you His desires for your friendships. Seek Him daily, for without Him, we girls tend to chase after unhealthy and unrighteous relationships. To illustrate this point, I have some off-blog stories for you…
Secondly, use your brain. God gave you amazing intellect, therefore don’t save it for only classroom work. This is important life work, so be smart and contemplate what qualities make a godly friend. Make a list of those qualities before school starts, and ponder what blessings can come from having wise friends. Thoughtful preparation does not come naturally at your age, but you are still very capable of it. It’s an essential part of growing up, and you can avoid so much pain if you practice it!
Then when school starts, get your face in on the action.
With your eyes, watch carefully. And I don’t mean social-media viewing. I mean look into real faces, in real life. But be careful that you don’t limit yourself to watching only those who are beautiful or strong. You might miss a good friend if you focus only on appearances. Observe behaviors and attitudes, paying extra attention to how they respond when things don’t go well. Keep those eyes peeled for hints of character. The stand-up ones will stand out, I promise.
With your ears, listen to topics, tone, and language. Words are a direct reflection of a person’s heart, so listen for good ones.
And with your mouth, smile. Even though you will be busy watching and listening, that doesn’t mean you have to frown in judgment. Be not friends with everyone, but be friendly to all.
Also, use your mouth to speak positively whenever possible, and words of life about everyone. Have a plan for when gossip arises in the conversation. Because, unfortunately, it will. Some effective gossip-avoiding strategies that I use are: changing the subject, saying something positive about the person, or excusing myself from the conversation. You don’t have to choose one of my strategies, as long as you are ready to respond to that sneaky enemy of girl bonding. I’ve seen it kill many relationships over the years, so trust me, and beware.
After some time, and when you have spotted a few jewels, get your feet and legs involved. Walk alongside them, measure their pace, and roam in their circles. See where they work, play, hang-out, and worship. Before you share the yoke of deep friendship with someone, you need to know in which direction they are headed. You don’t want to be tricked into going the wrong way, believe me. Also, at this stage, keep yourself grounded. Walk among the crowd, have fun, be engaged, but resist the urge to jump in with both feet. You might feel like you are missing out, or like you’re the only one left on the bank at times, but it’s foolish to leap before you are sure of what’s below. You may end up way over your head, off a cliff, or in a den of lions. I don’t want to scare you, or cause you to be cynical, but we are still dealing with undercooked frontal lobes here…So, please be safe. Set your feet on the Rock, the Solid Ground, and He will bring friends with whom you can jump and fly without fear.
But what about your hands? I didn’t forget them. They have much to do.
First, resist the urge to wring them in worry. God knows that you need friendships and He will bring them, but His timing often doesn’t match ours. Waiting is so difficult, but His plan is always worth it. When you feel yourself start to panic in the waiting, busy your hands with service. Developing the habit of working hard to serve others will keep your mind off of your own longings, and will make you a better friend when the time comes.
Be willing to extend your hands to bring other gems into your circle. For some reason, girls tend to think they “own” one another. They mark their feminine territory with bracelets, t-shirts, and necklaces split in two. Resist the “best friend” label. It leads to exclusion and often creates much relational pressure. Be the one to carry the good news to all girls that this friendship thing is not a contest. Maybe the message will spread and there will be an epidemic of mature, brave, honest, sacrificial, and humble teenage girls who are free to share and enjoy one another. How different would middle school and high-school be, then? All things are possible with God.
Also, with your hands, reach out for help. Often, it’s too difficult, at your age, to know when to set up appropriate boundaries in friendships or to discern if a relationship is healthy. I’ve learned so much about this the hard way. More off-blog stories later… Please ask for guidance when you’re sensing something isn’t quite right. I promise I’ll listen and guide while keeping my own hands out.
And finally, still with your hands, let go. Release the grip you have on any unrealistic expectations that you may have for your friendships. Remind yourself that your friends will fail, forget, and flounder in their relationship with you, and you with them. They will not meet all of your needs, nor should they feel compelled to try. Let each of your friends be herself, and don’t ask her to be God.
Finally, return to your heart. At this point, you will know if those around you can be trusted with what’s inside. Be free, after all of this, to open up and share your hopes, dreams, worries, longings, and emotions with these treasures. Allow time and space for them to share theirs. Enjoy these gifts of Grace from God. Pray for them, be thankful for them, and continue to seek Him daily in them.
I want all of this for you, my beautiful daughters, and I’ll be on my knees with you, asking God to bring His girls to you in friendship.
But also, I’ll be in prayer over you, from head to toe, that you can be the kind of friend for others that you are wanting for yourself.
All of this, so that all of your friendships can be a testimony of the gospel; full of grace and truth, brimming with love and forgiveness.
So that you, your friends, and those watching would know God, the Friend of sinners.
Friendship on purpose. Friendship with a purpose. Friendship so that others may know Him.
With Christ as our Friend,
I love you, Mom
How to Choose Friends Wisely What are the Important Traits to Look for in a Friend by Kelli Mahoney
Choose a Friend Who is Honest
A friend that is honest is one of the best friends you can have. Trust and honesty are cornerstones in any relationship. Choosing a friend who can tell you how it is will be something you’ll appreciate greatly (albeit, you may not always appreciate it in that particular moment, you’ll look back on it and appreciate it later…really). An honest friend will keep you from walking out of the house wearing that awful green shirt or tell you that the girl you’re going to ask out isn’t interested. They’re supportive in their honesty, and you should choose someone you know will not lie.
Choose a Friend Who Gets Your Quirks, Oddities, and Weird Sense of Humor
Friends need to laugh together. We like our good times in life, and sometimes the best times come from our own odd character traits. Choose a friend who gets those quirks and can laugh with you rather than at you. After all, if you choose a friend who gets your odd sense of humor, it’s likely they have one, too. Look for someone who will laugh with you at a look or a glance. Those people will be some of your best friends. They don’t put you down for the things that make you different, they embrace them!
Choose a Friend Who Stands By You in the Tough Times
It’s so easy for us to be good friends in the fun times. There’s all kinds of laughter and joyful moments, and those times make relationships easy. But who are the people who stand by you when times turn tough? Those are your true friends. Those are the people that get that life doesn’t always go the way we plan. It’s much harder to stand by someone that’s having a tough time, so choosing a friend that is strong enough to be the shoulder to cry on or hold your hand when it’s needed is a wise choice.
Choose a Friend Who Gives as Much as They Take
We’ve all had friends that only want things from us, but they never seem willing to give to us when we need it. Relationships involve compromise. Sometimes you’re going to do what your friend wants to do, even though it’s not quite your thing, and sometime she or she is going to do what you want to do, even though it’s not quite their thing. When a relationship is one-sided, we just end up feeling resentful and angry. It’s not healthy. Choose a friend with whom you feel a balance of give and take.
Choose a Friend Who Gets Your Faith is Important
Your faith is important to you, so why choose a friend who puts it down at every chance they get? If your friends are pulling you away from God, are they really your friends? Not likely. A true friend, whether they believe what you do or not, will support your choice to be a Christian. It tends to be why Christians often choose other Christian friends, because they want to be with people that help them stay on a Christian path.
Choose a Friend Who Likes the Things You Do
While friendship is full of compromise, it helps if you choose friends who share in a lot of your interests. It gives you things to talk about or share. It makes deciding on stuff to do easier. You don’t have to choose a friend who likes every single little thing you do, but you should have some shared interests.