Judging by the 1 million+ Facebook likes the article: 11 Things You Never Thanked your Best Friend For, But Meant To received I may be the only one in the world who it didn’t sit quite right with. The topic of what makes a best friend/true friend/authentic friend has been weighing on me lately so though I typically scroll right on past most Facebook articles, this headline jumped out at me.
I realize the writer was being light-hearted, but I couldn’t help thinking that the best friend she described was not the true friend I want for my daughter. Please know though not everything written was out of sync for me. In her “best friend” overlooking her flaws she displays the gracious and forgiving heart that characterizes a true friend. But this “best friend” also willingly lied to cover for her, did not speak the truth in love (though contradictory was said to always say it how it is) and was in fact commended for not taking a stand against her when she disagreed or saw red flags.
Does this mean a best friend should always go along with what we want and hold our same opinion? If someone doesn’t cater to us, do we dismiss them as our best friend?
I think we need to reevaluate the notion of “best friend(s)” and seek out for ourselves and help our children see the value in true, authentic friends as being the best kind of friends.
First and foremost, a true friend loves and accepts us no matter what. This means like the “best friend” in the article she does not pass judgement and is forgiving; however she is also willing to be iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17) by challenging us when we are tempted or fall in to sin instead of turning a blind eye or aiding us in our sin. Because of her love, speaking the truth and pointing us toward Christ is worth initiating hard conversations. And if we are a true friend back, we will consider and accept her rebuke instead of shunning her for going against us.
Likewise, a true friend in imaging forth God embodies the love of Christ, which is full of grace and forgiveness, but also others-focused. I am glad the “best friend” in the article was noted as a willing listener, but are we? Or, do we just want someone who listens to us without us having to listen or give back to them? Do we invest only in people who want to do what we want or do we seek to embrace others interests?
Sadly, along with social media has come an increased focus on self. And in our desire for self glory, I think the concept of seeking to elevate others above ourselves has been lost. “Best friends” then too often among our kids are the ones who by association make them look or feel popular, but are not necessarily “true friends.”
Based on the teen survey I recently sent out (click here for the post with survey links), about half of all responders said they feel alone but consider their friends to be unsafe to confide in because they believe they would be judged, not taken seriously or understood. Wow!
And, over half said they don’t feel like they measure up to their friends. This makes me so sad, especially when the impression given in social media posts is: BFF! “Best friends forever” who they can’t be trasparent with!
So who cares if your “best friend” shares her favorite clothing article or pigs out with you (like the one in the article), if you can’t be transparent or don’t feel safe sharing are they really a “true friend?”
Last thought: While naturally we and our kids form deeper friendships with some over others, the whole idea of posting who our best friend(s) is can be hurtful and exclusive to others. If we are seeking to be a genuine friend – not just to our “best friends” but to all, as Scripture calls us to – it seems we would not say or do anything that makes others feel less than or not as important. Thus, my problem in proclaiming a best friend to the world via social media is we are by default making others feel unworthy.
Helping our kids wade through the ups and downs of friendships is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. When they hurt, we hurt. But in the hurts we must remind them of their true identity in Christ. And use every opportunity to encourage them to be a “true friend” to others which gives them the eyes to see who is a true friend to them.
This past post on friendship was my very first blog entry: Foundation of a Friend.