Among the many duties, responsibilities, and joys of parenting, helping children learn how to choose friends wisely is
of the utmost importance.
In today's secular society, there is great pressure for people to be "all-inclusive" or "completely tolerant". The problem is, that if taken out of context, these ideas help to promote a relativist viewpoint wherein "everything is good" and "everyone can decide what is right for themselves".
As Christians, we believe that "right" and "wrong" has already been decided by God, our loving Father, in Heaven. By His gracious gift of free will, we are not given a privilege of deciding what is right and what is wrong, but rather, whether or not we will follow that which God has already decided!
Friendship is a gift. We are all made in the image and likeness of our Creator and therefore, it is a great blessing to fellowship and share in the lives of others as we (hopefully) aid one another in our journey toward our eternal home in God's kingdom.
We hear it said all the time that we are not to "judge" others. Yet again, in post-Christian society, this poses a problem because it is taken to mean that we can not "make a judgment" as to whether or not something is good or bad for our souls. Not judging others merely means that we, as finite human beings, who can not, as Our Creator can, see the state of another's soul, can not judge where that person will spend his or her eternity. In other words, Salvation is a gift, given to all, by Christ; and we do not have the right to decide who will accept their gift and enter His kingdom, and who will not. It does not mean, however, that we, as thinking, reasoning people, are not to "make judgments" about: behavior, situations, actions, beliefs, convictions, or temptations. We must make these kinds of judgments each and every day, according to the Revelation that has been given to us through the Word of God and by the Teaching power of His Catholic Church, on earth.
Helping children learn to discern a good friendship from a bad one is crucial to their faith formation and the health and well-being of the soul as they grow up to move on in the world without our daily influence.
What is a good friend? How can we teach our children to recognize a healthy friendship from one that is a detriment?
A true friend will encourage us in life. He or she will have the courage to admonish us when needed, for our own sake. They will have our best interests at heart. They will uplift and support us in our ideas and endeavors, even if they don't necessarily agree with us all the time.
A healthy friendship allows us to dream new dreams and think and try new things.
A good friend will always try to be there to comfort us and help us in times of trial or sorrow. He or she will also be there to rejoice and have joy with us in our blessings.
Friends who are worthy will seek and give forgiveness when needed.
The book of Proverbs 27 has much to say about friendship.
It helps for our friends to be likeminded insofar as beliefs, morals, and convictions are considered. Sharing in the Catholic Faith together can be seen as a great blessing; though it is not necessary to have only friends that are Catholic.
Although it might feed an ego or satisfy a selfish desire to seek out friendships that encourage us in self-indulgence or personal gratification without consideration for God's commandments; these types of associations will quickly do "more harm than good" and therefore, should be avoided.
Friendship then, should be about "how it makes us feel" as much as it should be about "how does it help me grow closer to God in my life and how does it help me share His love?"
Parents would do well to encourage their children to seek friendships that are true according to God's design for us. It would be better for a child to endure a bit of loneliness (learning to seek the companionship of Jesus) than to invite friendships for the sake of "belonging", even if those relationships are not healthy for the whole person: body, mind, and soul.
Inasmuch as we support them in choosing good friends, we must also be there to help them find the courage to resist those that could lead them into sin.
Catholic family life can be rich in love and friendship. It is good and proper to teach children that their best friends in life are those in their own family: their parents and their siblings. One can not learn to be a good friend to others, or to seek out friendships in the world, before one has learned to befriend those whom God has given as "family".
We can pray with our children for God to send them good and true friends. We can encourage them to reach out to others when they meet someone who seems to need a friend. By focusing on "others" it helps our sons and daughters to think less of "self" and more of learning to "be a good friend".
Helping our children learn to seek righteous and true friendships is conducive to building up the family, the Church, the community, and the world at-large.
Parents most often teach by example. Thus, we can begin to help our kids choose good and godly friendships by choosing good and godly friendships for ourselves.
Copyright 2010 Judy Dudich
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