Teaching Our Girls about Healthy Friendship
“Sometimes I just feel really alone,” she said. Tears were brimming in her baby blue eyes.
I listen and my heart breaks because I would do anything, anything, to prevent the spill-over of those tears. In the end, I know there’s no way to protect her from the heartbreak of feeling alone. Yet I also know it’s precisely these things that God uses to draw us closer to Him and build our relational wisdom.
So if us moms want to teach our girls how to be good friends with other girls, then we need to teach them to W.A.T.C.H. I.T.
Here are seven keys to building new friendships:
Welcome others: There’s nothing worse than walking into a group of girls and feeling as if you’re invisible. If someone walks up to your friends and you, smile at her. If you don’t know her, introduce yourself. Ask her to play or just hang-out. No one likes the cold shoulder. A welcoming friend is a wonderful friend.
1. Ask questions: After you have welcomed her, ask her a few questions about who she is. Pull her into what you are talking about. People are God’s gift to us, dear daughter. We can learn so much from each other. Make her feel heard by listening well.
2. Talk with words that build-up, not tear-down. The old saying about sticks and stones is a lie. Words do hurt. You can choose to build someone up or tear them down just by what you choose to say. When we use our words to tear others down, it’s usually because of our own insecurity–the object of our venom is an innocent victim. Not to mention, when we speak ugliness over others, we reveal what’s inside our own hearts. On the flip side, when we choose to use words that build-up, we encourage each other. We give grace to one another and show others you are a safe person and can be trusted with their hearts. Words can build-up or tear-down, encourage or discourage, and influence or kill dreams. Choose them well.
3. Choose friends wisely. This isn’t meant to be exclusive–it is not okay to leave someone out because they’re not dressed the right way or because she’s been labeled as a bit “weird.” Choosing friends wisely is about spending time with people who encourage you to love God and be your best self. Unfortunately, there will be girls out there who will not be kind. They will enjoy putting others down and they’ll be your friend one day and your enemy the next. While we want to pray for these girls and we still must handle them with love and grace, you certainly don’t have to be their BFF. In fact, there is an old saying that warns us to “Be careful of the company you keep.” This means if you are spending time with a crowd that bullies others, even if you aren’t a bully, you just might be considered one simply because of who you choose to hang around. When you spend time with friends, others assume you enjoy their company and if you enjoy the company of a bully or someone who makes fun of others, then people will believe you do, too – even if you don’t.
4. Have grace. Your friends will make mistakes. They’ll say things that will hurt your feelings and they’ll make choices that will sadden you. No one is perfect. And here’s the thing: you will need grace from others, too. You have to give grace to get grace. Your friends will need forgiveness-grace, which means they’ll need you to forgive them even if they don’t seek your forgiveness. However, they will also need behavior-grace. Behavior-grace is the kind of grace we extend simply by showing kindness when we would prefer to not be so kind. It’s not retaliating from a hurt with poisonous words. It’s remembering we are all in different places in our relationship with God. Grace is an essential piece of a Heart Sister friendship!
5. Integrate healthy boundaries. While we do need to have grace with others, we also might need to release a relationship if we’re repeatedly hurt. An example of this is when a friend threatens to no longer be your friend if you don’t do things her way. This is called manipulation and Heart Sisters don’t do that to each other.
Boundaries are also needed if a friend is encouraging you to do what you know is wrong. Heart sisters spur one another on and encourage each other to walk closely with God. Sin separates us from God. If a friend is encouraging you to sin then she’s separating you from God. It’s true we all sin. And it’s true that God does not have a “severity of sins” scale. All sins are equal in His book. However, if a friend is repeatedly encouraging you to behave inappropriately with boys or drink alcohol or smoke, she doesn’t have your best interests at heart. Also, if she is cruel to others and sometimes to you, she doesn’t have your best interests at heart. Putting a boundary around the relationship can be done with behavior-grace and forgiveness-grace and while it might be difficult at times, it will be worth the freedom.
6. Tell the truth but speak it with love. When we lie to each other, we violate trust whether we are caught in our lie or not. If we are trying to be girls of God, we will be less convincing of His truths if we don’t value truth in our own relationships. Be a person who values truth so if you are ever in the position to speak the real Truth, you are trusted. But be careful – you also need to watch how you deliver the truth. There’s a difference between being honest and being candid. Being honest is delivering truth for your benefit. It’s spouting off things that could be hurtful to another person because “I’m just being honest.” However, being candid is sharing truth in a way that is loving and has the other person’s best interest at heart. Being honest means I’m all about me but being candid means I’m all about you. Jesus calls us to put others before us so when we’re candid, we’re obeying God.
7. And guess what Moms? W.A.T.C.H. I.T. works for us, too.
Written by Natalie Snapp