Who of us hasn’t reminisced good times spent with friends, and yet, how many of us recall times with friends as characterized by trouble-making? Some of the greatest stories are told about the two sides of this coin: Huck and Tom; Stalkey and his “company”; and how about the beloved Penrod? Who hasn’t loved these stories? And yet most parents would agree that they’d cringe for their children to imitate any of the above!
The fact is, friendship has great potential for cultivating vice as well as virtue. As a father I am keen to do all I can to promote the latter… but how?
There is a mystery to how true friends are made. I say true because we have lots of “friends” but only a couple true friends in a lifetime. There are those friendships that happen almost like fire and gasoline – once they meet things are never the same. Other friends are made through circumstances such as school or neighborhood connections.
Regardless of how a friend is made, the hearts of our children must be prepared for both the challenge and stretching of friendship.
What Is a True Friend?
A true friend is someone who helps you to love God more. Friendship rejoices in truth; it promotes virtue. Can you imagine having a friend who despises lying (because it IS truly despicable!), encourages absolute truthfulness in you, and asks you to do the same for him? Isn’t the challenge of purity more easily met when your friend strives alongside of you to honor everyone as God has instructed?
Friendship Begins at Home
In a time when technology is redefining relationships, we have to work harder than ever to teach our kids about true friendship. If true friendship involves spurring one another on to love God more, the family is a great place to begin the cultivation of that kind of friendship.
Be best friends with your spouse. Encourage and cultivate friendship among siblings. Read rich stories to your children of friendship in the scriptures and in the great works of literature. Make it your study and your practice to BE a friend and model that pursuit before your family.
The Gospel Enables True Friendship
Friendship must be defined by something greater than itself or it will soon reach its limits. Only the Gospel has the kind of power capable of producing eternal change in the human heart, and therefore common interests will expire unless they rise above mundane terrestrialism. Only a big view of God and the transcendent goal of Christ-likeness can lay a foundation strong enough for great friendship. Offenses will cool passions or kill vision if the cross doesn’t set the standard for forgiveness.
In short, it is only when we have friendship with Christ (John 15:14) that we have the potential for true friendship with another.
So let us not be trite in our desire and hope for friendship in our own lives and in the lives of our children. Jesus calls us, who love Him and obey his commands, friends.
May we extend that friendship within our families and beyond, by his strength and to his glory.