Young People Ask . . .
Who Really Is My Friend?
“I’VE been going to school in this district for eight years, but in all that time I’ve never managed to make one single friend! Not one,” sobbed Ronnie. “I don’t get along with my dad, and my mother doesn’t understand me, and I fight with my sister. And I have nobody! My phone never rings. I have no one to talk to. Nobody knows what I feel and nobody cares. Sometimes I think I just can’t stand it anymore!”
Ronnie painfully describes the misery of life without a friend. Perhaps you’ve had similar feelings at times. Many young persons have. Not all succeed in finding true friends. Researchers at the University of Nebraska (U.S.A.) found that “high-school students are the most troubled by loneliness, with college students next in line.” Communication gaps may build “walls” of isolation. Under these circumstances a real friend is vital.
What Is a Real Friend?
A genuine friend is someone that does more than the scores of acquaintances we greet every day do. One African tribe reportedly described some individuals as “friends of the road” and others as “friends of the heart.” What is a “friend of the heart”? Several young persons explained.
“A real friend,” said 18-year-old Semone, “is one who sticks with you through thick and thin. He is one who shares not only good times but also bad times. When you have problems, you can always talk to your friend and find a shoulder to cry on.” That description is similar to the Bible’s, which reads: “A friend is loving all the time and becomes a brother in times of trouble.”—Proverbs 17:17, The Bible in Basic English.
Yes, in the language of the Bible, a friend is one who loves us. We may be inclined to think that our friends are those who tell us how great we are. On the other hand, if a companion were to tell us we were wrong, perhaps our feelings would be ‘bruised.’ But at Proverbs 27:6 the Bible in Living English cautions: “There is more trust to be put in bruises from one who loves than in effusive kisses from one who hates.” So we need to be careful that our ego doesn’t cause us to choose the wrong kind of friends.
One who appreciated the importance of this was 18-year-old James. He said: “A real friend to me is a person who tells you when you do something wrong and tries to help you stop.” Agreeing, 26-year-old Marvia said: “Sometimes a so-called friend will see you get into trouble and then say, ‘I saw you leading up to that, but I was afraid to tell you.’ But when a real friend sees you going the wrong way, she will try to warn you before it’s too late—even if she knows you may not like what she says.”
But who is going to decide what’s right and what’s wrong? There is someone who has seen much more of life than any of us have. That is mankind’s Creator, Jehovah God. In the Bible he tells us how to use our lives so as to find satisfaction, instead of suffering needless regrets. Proverbs 2:6-9 informs us that, if we listen to God and do what he counsels, we will understand “the entire course of what is good.”
If you have a friend who relies on that source of counsel, one who thinks straight and talks straight, he can provide you with valuable input and thereby aid you in making wise decisions. For good reasons the Bible speaks of “the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart.”—Proverbs 27:9, The Amplified Bible.
Does It Matter Whom You Choose?
The late Henry Ford reportedly was asked, “Who is your best friend?” After thinking for a moment, he replied, “He is your best friend who brings out of you the best that is in you.” Therefore, many young persons have seen the need to be selective in choosing friends.
“My life is proof that not all ‘friends’ bring out your best,” stated 23-year-old Peggy. This young woman disclosed that as a teenager she was forced to leave home and was befriended by a married couple, Bill and Lloy, for over a year. While living with this family she was taught many things about God and the Bible. “The months I spent with them were filled with real joy, contentment and peace,” said Peggy. “But it didn’t last because, despite their pleas for me to stay, I left to be with some other ‘friends.’
“In time I learned many things from my new ‘friends’—stealing stereos, cashing bad checks, smoking marijuana and, finally, how to support a $200-a-day drug habit,” Peggy stated. “At the time I would think that these persons really cared for me, only to realize later that they only wanted money, drugs or whatever they could get from me.”
Then, at 18, she met a young man, Ray, who befriended her and offered her all the drugs she could use—free. “I thought all my troubles were over. Never again would I have to steal and cheat,” reported Peggy. “But he introduced me to prostitution. Yet I knew at the end of the day Ray would always be there.”
However, Ray became more demanding and it was apparent that he, too, was interested in the money that Peggy brought to him. In an attempt to stop her dependence, Peggy broke free of her drug habit. “But Ray would come around and treat me real nice, offering me dope,” confessed Peggy. “And before I realized it I was ‘hooked’ again.” So, finally, she fled the city to escape from this ‘friend.’ But would she ever find a genuine friend?
Recalling the genuine warmth of the family she stayed with, Bill and Lloy, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, she sought out some more Witnesses in her new location. Soon two Witnesses called at her door. “Tears of joy flooded my eyes as I embraced the two startled women,” related Peggy. “I had grown to despise the hypocrisy of my former ‘friends,’ but here were people who were for real.”
What about Peggy’s bad habits? “I had no problem overcoming them all—except smoking. Time and again I would fail and beg God’s forgiveness,” explained Peggy. “Then one of my friends said, ‘Instead of praying and asking for forgiveness after you fail, why not pray beforehand and ask for strength when you feel the urge to smoke?’ This kind and practical suggestion did it. So with the help of my friends I managed to overcome this problem fully. For the first time in years I felt clean inside and knew what it meant to have self-respect.”
Is it not obvious who were Peggy’s real friends? What a contrast! While some “friends” led her to many bad habits, other genuine friends gave her the incentive to overcome these. Which of these effects do your friends have on you? What really are their moral standards? True, not all young persons are religiously inclined, but perhaps you are. If so, then you want friends who also care about God. How can you find out whether yours do? Start talking to them about God and you will quickly find out.
How grateful Peggy was to find real friends who ‘brought out her best’ rather than her worst! Looking back, she said: “When the Bible says, ‘He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly,’ it is absolutely right. I know! If I had just kept my friendship with those persons who loved God, I would have avoided all those things that are now an ugly memory. I found out the hard way who really is my friend.”—Proverbs 13:20.
[Box on page 23]
IS THE PERSON A REAL FRIEND?
● Is the person honest with you, even if what is said hurts?
● When you have problems, does that one “walk out”?
● Would that person’s habits enrich or ruin your life?
● How sound or consistent are that one’s standards on sexual morality?
● Does the person lie, steal or cheat in your presence?
● What kind of reputation does that person have?
● In what direction is that one’s life headed? Is it the same way you are going or want to go?
● Why does the person want to be your friend? Do you have something he wants?
● What do your parents think about the choice?
● Is there evidence that the person feels a responsibility toward God?
[Picture on page 21]
“A real friend to me is a person who tells you when you do something wrong and tries to help you stop.” Would your friends do that for you?