Photo Credit: 
Cheyenne Belew | For The Chronicle
Three young boys play together in a mound of dirt.
Three young boys play together in a mound of dirt.

Choosing right friendships

What company is your child keeping? Do you know his friends on the team? At school? How about online? Responsible parents can play a role in their child’s friendships throughout childhood and even into adulthood, when many still come to their parents for advice. Like it or not, children learn their values from watching parents. Therefore, the most important thing a parent can do is model keeping good company. Let’s examine what the Bible says about choosing friends.

Wise proverbs

Whether you use the Bible as a compass or not to raise your children, it is hard to argue with the wisdom found in the book of Proverbs. There is especially helpful guidance that applies to friendships. For many, the following verse comes to mind.

“Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33b (NIV).

I remember hearing this at church as a child and being told to not hang out with the “bad” kids because I would become like them. Yet, it is hard to sort through the meaning of this verse through a juvenile lens alone. Who exactly are “bad” kids, and should our children completely avoid them?

Be their guide

As parents, we have the unique opportunity to steer our children through the process of making right friendships. Before we address this topic, let’s discuss the most pressing mission of Christians — to reflect Christ. This is done through our words and actions. How should this affect the friendships our children keep? If our goal is to reflect Christ, shouldn’t our children only have Christian friends? Some parents (me included at one point) create a sort of “Christian Disneyland” for children in which to grow up? All good influences. Just Church friends. Only Christian music.

Absolutely not. That would be too easy and counterintuitive. To reflect Christ to the world, our children must be in the world and therefore among sinful people. These are the people with whom Jesus associated during His ministry on earth. Now, He did not follow them into their sin. But He went where they went. He ate with them in their homes. And He modeled godly living while doing it. However, Jesus also judiciously surrounded Himself with a few like-minded believers who supported Him on his journey. They were His support system, so to speak. In teaching our children, let us follow the example Jesus set.

The “inner circle”

Jesus had twelve main friends, the apostles. Of the twelve, three were closer friends: Peter, James, and John. Some refer to them as His “inner circle”. Jesus allowed his “inner circle” to witness miracles other apostles were not allowed to see. Jesus shared intimate experiences with them because he trusted them. He recognized their potential future. These three men would go on to found churches and author several books in the Bible. There is a takeaway here. It can be beneficial for your child to develop an “inner circle” of Christian friends. It is with the support of His “inner circle” that Jesus found the strength to endure the hardships his journey afforded. Your child needs a support system in this life as well.

What to avoid

So, how can parents help their children choose that handful of “inner circle” friendships that will sustain them on their journey? Sometimes children understand better if they are told what characteristics to avoid. So, here are three characteristics to steer clear of when looking for “inner circle” friends. Parents can use this list as a guide to have an age-appropriate conversation with their child. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it is a good Biblical starting point to help your child choose close friends. Teach your child to watch out for these types of friends.                

Prideful friends

“A foolish person does not want to understand anything. He only enjoys telling others what he thinks.” — Proverbs 18:2 (ICB)

Avoid foolish, opinionated friends. This type of friend wants to gain attention by his prideful assertions and refusal to see the truth. He always thinks he is right and only wants to air his opinions. He speaks more than he is willing to listen, often missing out on the facts.

Gossiping friends

“The words of a gossip are like tasty bits of food. People take them all in.” — Proverbs 18:8 (ICB)

Much like prideful friends, gossiping friends love to hear themselves talk. They enjoy talking about other’s faults, often to deflect attention away from their own shortcomings. They love to discuss people’s personal business and rush to judgement based on information they cannot confirm. This type will not be loyal to their friends.

Unreliable friends

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” — Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)

Is that neighbor friend also a friend on the playground? Does that church buddy acknowledge your child in the hall at school? An unreliable friend is fickle and cannot be counted on when they are needed. Sometimes referred to a fair-weather friend, this type is not loyal to his friends and typically acts with his own best interests in mind.

Closing thoughts  

When parents teach their children to choose good friends, they are making an investment in their child’s future character. There is an anonymous saying that goes something like this: Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. While expecting children to live among the world, we should simultaneously teach them to surround themselves with a few strong “inner circle” friends. During this period of development, our children are very impressionable. The friends they make now will impact their thoughts and choices for a lifetime. Until next week, be well. Talk to your children about developing their “inner circle” of friends. Share your own experiences in this journey. They will appreciate it.

Contact Cheyenne Belew at thechronicle@hillcom.net.

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