What is a friend? How do your kids define friendship? Who are your kids’ friends? Today AMBrewster starts a conversation Christian parents need to be having with their kids from the earliest ages. We’ve done our children a disservice in our parenting if their definition of friendship has come from anywhere but God’s Word.
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Our God is a relational God.
He has relationships within His own being, and He calls us to redemptive relationships.
To refuse to engage in relationship is sinful, but to engage in the wrong relationships can be equally as sinful.
It’s true that some of our children struggle with being loners, and we’ll discuss that in part, but our main focus of this study is what to do when our children have all the wrong friends.
But before we jump into that, I want to welcome those of you who are joining us for the first time.
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So, thank you for joining us. I pray this study in friendship will draw you and your kids closer to God.
I suppose the best place to start is to figure out what a friend actually is.
The problem is that there are just as many definitions for friend as there are people. I can promise you that the definition I developed in high school would not have been shared by my friends or my enemies.
You could search the internet, but please allow me to spare you the agony by sharing with you some of the more thought out and interesting definitions.
Merriam-Webster has five definitions:
1. a : one attached to another by affection or esteem b: acquaintance
2. a : one that is not hostile b : one that is of the same nation, party, or group
3. : one that favors or promotes something (such as a charity)
4. : a favored companion
5. : a member of a Christian sect that stresses Inner Light, rejects sacraments and an ordained ministry, and opposes war — called also Quaker
I don’t know if your children are in danger of many Quakers, but hopefully they have people in their lives for whom they have affection. However, what if they have affection for the wrong people? What if their favored companion encourages them to sin?
However, there’s another issue with lumping all our friends into the same group. Not all friends are created equally.
So, in order to figure out her friend circle, Gretchen Rubin devised this breakdown.
First, she has “Just Friends.” She defines this as “a person you see — at a weekly poker game, at your child’s school — who is enjoyable company, but you have no desire to socialize outside a specific context or to get to know that person better.”
Second, she defines “Rust Friends” as people “you’ve known for a long, long time; you’re probably not going to get any closer to [them] unless something changes, but a part of your life.”
Third, are her “Trust Friends.” These are people “who show integrity, [people] you feel comfortable with, that you’re always glad to see, but not in your inmost circle; perhaps [people] you’d like to be closer to, if you had the time or opportunity.”
And lastly, are is her “Must Friend.” This is your “best friend, a member of your inner circle, a person you count on when something big happens in your life.”
Based off those definitions, perhaps you see similarities between those definitions and people in your life of your kids’ lives.
However, I really like Sydneysider Mobinah Ahmad's six stage friendship-acquaintance theory.
I’m sure you can tell just by the name why I like this one so much.
She starts her list with PreAcquaintance and gives the statistic that this group makes up 10% of people she knows.
She defines this group as people of which she knows nothing beyond their name.
Her next level is Acquaintance Level 1. She explains this as the “to know of someone” category. She also conjectures that this makes up about 20% of people she knows.
She further describes this category as follows:
Then she has Acquaintance Level 2. This is the “Liking & Preliminary Care” category. She believes this makes up 30% of people she knows.
She describes this group like this:
I love that last part!
If you’re keeping track, so far her acquaintances make up 60% of Sydneysider’s relationships, but she’s not done with her acquaintances yet.
Her next category is Acquaintance Level 3. This is the “Significant Connection & Care” category that makes up about 25% of people she knows. Now, that description may sound like a friend to you, but even though she says . . .
. . . she doesn’t yet consider these people friends.
And the same is true with the next category. This is the PreFriend (aka Potential Friend) category that’s made up of about 14% of people she knows.
She describes these people as . . .
Now, if you’re keeping track, this makes up 99% of the people she knows.
That’s right, she reserves her final category for the 1% of people in her life she actually would call a Friend, and she defines this group as “Mutual Feelings of Love.” She goes on to say . . .
Now, perhaps hearing her definition of Friend, you understand what she’s saying. Perhaps you’re having a hard time thinking of even one person who fits that criteria. As you consider your kids, perhaps you’re having a hard time imagining that they have any of those.
Perhaps that’s why we’re tempted to call so many people friends. If we used Sydneysider’s definition, we wouldn’t have any friends. And — if you’re a child or teen in our culture — not having friends is unacceptable. We’d rather rename acquaintances than admit to not having friends.
This is why Sydneysider has additional notes. She says . . .
So, why did we go through all of that?
Well, we went through it to prove my earlier assertion that everyone has their own opinion on the subject, but to also show that when we take a moment to really think about our friends, we can come to some deep and extremely introspective conclusions.
And I think that’s missing in most families. Have you actually sat down with your children and discussed God’s definition of friendship? Do they realize that people exist on a relationship continuum? Do they understand that we should interact with people differently depending on how they relate to us?
So, I want to end off today by asking and answering a couple important questions that will help us build a framework for discussing this topic with our kids. Then, next time, we’ll build on that framework as we study what God’s Word actually says about friendship.
Let’s say that you sit your kids down for a family devotional time (which is a wonderful idea), and you want to start a discussion about friends.
As always, I highly suggest starting with questions. Let your kids think about and answer the questions in order to get a back-and-forth started instead of it turning into a lecture.
You can start simply by asking them what they think a friend is. This will give you some very helpful insight into your children. It will expose how they think and it will expose who their main influencers are.
If they have a different definition of friend than you do, then you know they learned it from someone else better than they learned it from you.
You can also ask them how other people define friend.
You could then share with them the examples I gave you earlier from Gretchen and Sydneysider. In fact, I’ll include their definitions of friends on our Episode Notes. You can download those for free from our blog, Taking Back the Family, which you can find at TruthLoveParent.com.
Here’s another really great question to ask your kids. Does friendship have to be reciprocal?
Some say “yes," and some say “no,” and it has everything to do with how they define friendship.
Based off their definition of friend, you can also ask them how many friends they have in their lives.
I just had this conversation with my family today. We talked about all the things we discussed today and more, and my kids (who have a fantastic definition of what a friend is) admitted that the closest friends the have — biblically speaking — are their mom and dad, followed by their sibling.
Isn’t that great? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your children said that you were the best friend they had?
Well, my hope is that you truly are their best friend, and my hope is that when we’re done discussing this topic that your children will come to realize that, have a deep desire to have more true friends, and know what to do with the people who aren’t friends.
And, before we look at the passage for today, I want to make one more observation.
I want to share with you two companion studies that will deepen and broaden our understanding of biblical friendship.
First, if you haven’t taken your kids through “The Four Family Loves” series that started in episode 128, you can either start with that or end with it. However, I think studying that after you have this discussion with them is probably best. It will be a beautiful continuation of this study.
And for those of you who have already taken your kids through that study, it will be important to review those concepts as you discuss friendship.
One other show that will be really good for you is episode 136, “Do You Really Want to Be Their Friend? | the requirement of befriending your kids.”
Of course, you can also teach those truths to your children as you discuss biblical friendship, and we’ll likely touch on some of them here.
Now, I know what you’re going to say, “We talked a lot about what other people think, and we asked a lot of questions, but we didn’t learn any answers.
That’s true. There’s simply too much to try to fit into the rest of the show, but what we did talk about was very important.
So, let us focus on one, undeniable and very important consideration. I’ve mentioned it a couple times, and — in my minds eye — I saw a questioning look flit across some of your faces.
Earlier asked the question, “Do [your children] understand that we should interact with people differently depending on how they relate to us?”
What was my motivation for those comments?
Please consider Psalm 1:1: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”
God is granting His special blessing to us only when we don’t hang out with certain people.
That may not sound super spiritual to you, but it’s a vital reality with which we must grapple and with which we must call our children to interact.
There are certain people with whom our children should not interact. Those people should not be considered friends.
But more on that next time as we dive into the Scriptures and discover what God says a friend is.
Please share this episode with your friends. And — you know what — you should share it with your enemies and PreAcquaintances and Levels 1-3 Acquaintances and Potential Friends too. In fact, you can even share it publicly on Facebook so some of your strangers see it.
And speaking of Facebook, please consider liking our Facebook page. We post parenting articles and quotes about three times a day. We consider these articles to be some of the best parenting information from authors outside of our ministry.
You can also follow Truth.Love.Parent. Twitter for fantastic verses and parenting quotes throughout the day.
If you’re going to be on social media, you may as well fill our feed with things that glorify God and help you be a better parent.
I’m going to go so far to say that friendships are an important part of living a life that glorifies God. They’re definitely not something you should take for granted.
And if one of your most important responsibilities as a parent is to manage your children’s influencers, then this discussion is vital.
So, I’ll see you next time as we help your family build a solid understanding of biblical friendship.
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