“Mom. Guess what happened today.”
I mentally prepare for my son’s latest middle school tale. He is a storyteller. He shares. I am thankful. In a short time that might change drastically.
I don’t waste time venturing a guess. He is waiting. What happened? I ask.
It’s often the same type of story. It usually involves a friend. So-and-so, sometimes a kid whose name I recall from his early elementary school years, sometimes a kid whose name he has mentioned many times recently, and sometimes a kid who he doesn’t want to name, did this. Or said that. Or picked a fight.
Sometimes the story is one that causes my stomach to drop, or makes me want to laugh or cry or scream. Being a kid these days is intense. I don’t want to cause him to retreat into teenage oblivion. It’s a balancing act. My time as his sounding board is precious. My reaction is always the same: casualness.
“Huh. What do you think about that?”
The answer, usually simple: Not good.
We talk about choices. We talk about setting the stage for your reputation now. If it concerns a friend, I ask if he can help. I ask if he wants to remain in the friendship. I tread lightly, matching lecture with anecdotes. Usually I’ve experienced the same thing. Sometimes I am experiencing a parallel situation.
“That’s so junior high,” we say to each other when we witness other people having trouble in their friendships. We tell ourselves that we are glad that we don’t act like that. We are adults. Who has time for immature squabbling?
But it’s not junior high. It’s human to do wrong in friendships, and hurt others, and be hurt. Friendships suffer for all kinds of reasons. It could be an action or word; when friendships go long, we allow our friends to see a side of us that we try so hard to cover up when we first meet. We overlook some quirks. Others are harder to ignore.
But often, we forget to consider a difference by asking What do I think about that? Is this something I can help my friend with, or is it time for me to back out? We jump to conclusions and write a person off because we are offended.
Impulses are difficult to manage, especially afterwards. Romans 12:18 tells us that “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (NIV). It is our responsibility to work on our side of relationship; this is where maturity lies, because it is hard. Nobody likes to admit weakness, their need for others, the possibility that they are wrong. Pride is an unwieldy obstacle.
God designed us to be social creatures. His plan for us involves fellowship, love for others, taking care of each other. We were made to be friends with each other and to work out differences. Petty squabbles are meant to be handled, not cause break-ups.
This is not to say that all of us will be friends, or that all of our friendships are destined for eternity. There’s a saying that goes “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I believe this is true; there are several people in my life who I’m not currently friends with for very good reasons. But while the people in my life are here, I will do my part to cultivate the relationship. Not perfectly, of course, but I can always ask God for guidance when a friendship falters, and I can stop and ask myself what I think about it before I act on impulse.
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. Matthew 18:15 (NLT)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 (NIV)