“Dear Dr. Sala,” writes an 8-year-old friend of Guidelines, “my name is Amy and I have a problem with my friends. Missy won’t like me if I like Aimee! I like both of them but I don’t understand! I don’t know what to do! Could you tell me…?” Signed, “Amy–your 8-year-old friend.”
One of the greatest compliments I receive–at least, from my point of view–is the number of children who respond to Guidelines.
Amy has a problem. She’s 8 years old, but her problem is very much of an adult problem as well. How do you handle the politics of friendship? How do you maintain balance when one friend doesn’t like another? That is not necessarily a children’s problem. Scores of adults draw lines of friendship and put people on one side or the other.
Amy, it is easy for me to suggest that you try to explain that you want to be friends with both girls, and that you are not going to make a decision to be nice to the one and not-so-nice to the other. But it doesn’t always make the problem go away. I remember when my daughter, Bonnie, was about the same age, a girl who had been a “best friend” decided that she didn’t like her any more. Bonnie was crushed. All attempts at friendship were rebuffed. She never knew why.
We live in a broken, sinful world, and that fact often creates bitterness, hatred, and revenge among people who don’t understand the high cost of living with brokenness.
There is one thing which I hope you can learn, Amy. We don’t have to make decisions and order our lives based on what other people think of us. It is liberating to learn that no one in all the world can make you stop loving him or her, and no one can make you choose to turn your back and hurt someone else.
One of the great lessons that parents can teach is that in spite of the consequences, it is OK to be yourself, to make your own decisions, to choose to do right no matter what others do.
Jesus made it so plain that we ought to treat others as we would like them to treat us. We call it the “Golden Rule.” He said, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
The fact is, we grow up and live in a sinful world, and apart from the grace of God which changes our lives, we are constantly going to have to cope with wrong and injustice. We cannot control what people do to us, but we are fully in control of how we choose to treat them.
I’m thinking of a brother who shared his heart, saying, “I was happily married and I thought we were getting along pretty well when I came home one night and my wife told me, ‘I don’t want to be married to you anymore.’” He said that everything he had worked for was gone with that one sentence. “I just couldn’t make her happy from that point on” he sadly recounted.
Amy, there is one more thought that I would like to share with you. My experience has been that if someone will be a friend with you only if you refuse to be a friend to someone else, eventually that person may side with someone else against you. Should you lose the friendship of that person, you haven’t lost a real friend. You’ve only lost the friendship of an acquaintance. It is a hard lesson for an 8-year-old to learn, but one that you can benefit from for the rest of your life.
Resource Reading: John 15:12-15
Text: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12, NIV
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – April 17, 2017