Friendship – it should be a pretty straight forward concept, right? But in a society full of things unclear, it would seem the definition of a friend has become unclear too.
Friendships and the people we hang out with can be a life-changing thing: never more-so than for teenagers in their first couple of years of high school. Societal challenges are real as they try to find their place in the social structure and how we fit in. Many teenagers report friendship as their most highly valued items in life. The use of technology is also affecting friendships and relationships. Sometimes we can be so much more comfortable with talking to someone on our social media chats than in real life.
Here are some tips on friendship to help your teenager navigate this important time in their lives.
- A friend is someone who accepts you for who you are. This means unconditional love, without conditions. It’s not one that says ‘I only like you if you like the same things as me’ for example. A true friendship says ‘I love who you are all the time. Not just this bit of you, or when you agree, or when it suits me. I accept you warts and all, and am in this relationship for the long haul’.
- Good friends speak truth to one another no matter what, even if it causes a little bit of conflict. I don’t mean being rude or hurtful when we speak the truth: rather, speak the truth in love. True friendships will risk being uncomfortable if it means gaining true peace – a peace that is only to be found on the other side of conflict. How much are you willing to fight for this friendship? Are you willing to be humble, say sorry and seek to understand the other person? Resolving conflict can be a simple conversation – but often a very hard one to have. It takes humility, honesty, vulnerability and a willingness to say ‘I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”
- Good friends celebrate each other’s victories. The tall poppy syndrome is rank is Australia! For those who don’t know, the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ refers to moments when an individual succeeds and we pay out on them. Sometimes, we don’t like it when others achieve better results than us, get chosen in the team when we are not, or succeed where we don’t. So we ’cut them down’ and can ‘payout’ on them, thinking ‘what about me?’ or ‘that’s not fair.’ Sometimes it’s just plain jealousy. The reality is, in those moments, it’s nothing to do with us, its everything to do with the other person. A good friend celebrates when good things happen to their friend and congratulates them. That is counter-cultural friendship!
- Your best friends don’t have to be at school. You can have friends outside of your everyday. Yes, you will naturally fall into sync with those you spend each day with, but you can also build some of your best and most lasting friendships with guys and girls from other schools, family friends and youth groups. So if our BFF from birth doesn’t go to your school, that’s OK. It’s those ‘womb buddies’ with whom we understand and know true friendship, and that can take years. You don’t become best friends with someone in three weeks, even if 2 people act like it at school. True friendships take time and hard work. If you understand that you will take pressure off those whom you’re just getting to know.
- Be deliberate about your friendships. If you look at your friends and you don’t like them, it may be time to start looking for a new friendship group. As the saying goes, “you are the company you keep” so chances are, you are probably like your friends. Be deliberate about the friends you hang out with. If you see someone you admire or think is awesome, be their friend! Sometimes our best friends end up being the ones where we risked feeling silly and said; ‘Hey, wanna hang out this weekend?” In fact, I have a close friend that decided she wanted to be friends. She literally said to me “I feel like we should be friends” – to this day, she is still one of my closest friendships I have had in my life. I’m so glad she was brave enough to say that to me many years ago. ❤
- A good friend is rare. Don’t expect to be BFFs with everyone! While we don’t leave people out, and we have many friends, not everyone is going to be a true, close friend. And that’s ok. There is a saying that goes “A good friend is hard to find, He who has found one has found a treasure indeed.” Not everyone is going to be your best friend! And if you find even one – they are a treasure and they are worth fighting for!
True friendships in my life have been ones who truly stick by me, who allow me to change and grow and be a sanctuary for me in a crazy world. They are also the ones that I have fought for, that we have had to say sorry at times, seek understanding and to trust each other with our vulnerabilities. I have found a few treasured friends. I hope you do too.
Mission Australia, Youth Survey Report 2018