Young People Ask . . .
School Friendships—How Close Is Too Close?
“The kids at school would talk about all the fun they had together on the weekend. I felt totally left out.”—Michelle.*
“Sometimes I’d see a group of kids and think, ‘Wow, they’re really good friends. I want to be part of that.’”—Joe.
“I didn’t have a problem making friends at school. It was easy. That was my problem.”—Maria.
YOU are around your schoolmates for a large part of your waking hours. You face many of the same challenges, frustrations, and achievements. In some ways, you may feel that you have more in common with them than you do with your parents, your siblings, or your fellow Christians. Understandably, you might feel pulled into a friendship. Is that wrong? Are there dangers? When it comes to friendships at school, how close is too close? Where should you draw the line?
You Need Friends
Everyone needs friends—people they can relax with during the good times and rely on during the bad. Jesus had friends, and he enjoyed socializing with them. (John 15:15) Then, when he faced death on a torture stake, Jesus’ close friend John, “the disciple whom he [especially] loved,” was nearby. (John 19:25-27; 21:20) You need friends like that—people who will stick with you through thick and thin. A Bible proverb states: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.
Perhaps you feel that you have found someone like that at school, one of your classmates with whom you have hit it off well. You share some similar interests and enjoy conversing together. True, the person may not be a fellow believer; yet, from your standpoint, he or she does not seem to fit the category of ‘bad association’ either. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Admittedly, some youths who do not share your Bible beliefs adhere to decent principles. (Romans 2:14, 15) But does that mean that you should become close friends with them?
Christians Are Not Antisocial
True Christians obviously do not shun nonbelievers. Why, to fulfill their commission to “make disciples of people of all the nations,” Christians speak with men and women of all races, religions, and cultures. (Matthew 28:19) They are not aloof when dealing with neighbors, workmates, or schoolmates, nor are they antisocial. Rather, Christians show keen interest in others.
The apostle Paul set an excellent example in this regard. He knew how to converse with “people of all sorts,” even though they did not share his beliefs. Of course, Paul’s purpose was not to socialize with them. Rather, he said: “I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.”—1 Corinthians 9:22, 23.
You can follow Paul’s example. Be cordial with your peers. Learn to communicate well with them. Some of your schoolmates may be searching for the Bible-based hope that you possess. Consider the case of a Christian girl named Janet. She and her classmates were assigned to write a brief remark about each fellow student, and then each of the students was able to read the comments that pertained to him or her. One of the notes that Janet received read: “You seem to be a very happy person all the time. Please tell us why!”
As this experience illustrates, some of your classmates may be open to learning about your beliefs. Surely, it is advantageous for you to be friendly with such ones. Undoubtedly, this will provide you with opportunity to explain your convictions. Allow your classmates to express their views too, and genuinely listen as they do so. The experience you gain in communicating with your peers will prove invaluable should you enter the secular workforce one day and face similar situations. At school and in the workplace, a friendly demeanor will help you to “adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.”—Titus 2:10.
“Unevenly Yoked” Friendships
Of course, there is a difference between being pleasant to a classmate and being that one’s intimate companion. Paul wrote: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) To be a close friend to someone, you must share that one’s values and goals. That simply is not possible with a person who does not adhere to your Scriptural beliefs and standards. Becoming unevenly yoked with an unbelieving classmate will likely either induce you to get involved in wrong practices or spoil your useful habits.
Maria found this out the hard way. Her outgoing nature made it easy for her to attract friends but difficult for her to know where to draw the line. “I liked being liked, by both girls and boys,” she admits. “As a result, I found myself sliding deeper and deeper into the quicksand of this world.”
Like Maria, you might find it hard to recognize when a friendship with someone who does not share your beliefs has become too close. Nevertheless, you can protect yourself from heartache by setting clear boundaries as to whom you will accept as an acquaintance and whom you will choose as a close friend. How can you do so?
How to Choose Good Friends
As mentioned earlier, Jesus formed close friendships while he was on earth. Jesus did so by living an upright life and by speaking about spiritual things. If people accepted his teachings and lifestyle, they drew close to him. (John 15:14) For example, after hearing Jesus speak, four men were so moved that they “abandoned everything and followed him.” These men—Peter, Andrew, James, and John—became Jesus’ close friends.—Luke 5:1-11; Matthew 4:18-22.
Jesus’ speech and actions made it clear that he was serious about what he believed and his stand was nonnegotiable. Those who did not want to accept him on his terms withdrew, and Jesus let them go.—John 6:60-66.
For instance, one young man’s sincerity deeply touched Jesus. The Bible says: “Jesus looked upon him and felt love for him.” But when the man learned what Jesus expected of his friends, he “went away.” The man seemed to be a good person—indeed, Jesus “felt love for him.” Yet, Jesus required more of his friends. (Mark 10:17-22; Matthew 19:16-22) What about you?
You may get along well with a particular schoolmate. But ask yourself: ‘Is this person willing to do what Jesus commands? Does he or she want to learn about Jehovah, the one whom Jesus instructed us to worship?’ (Matthew 4:10) As you talk with your classmates and as you live by Bible standards, the answers to these questions will be evident.
It is good to be pleasant to your classmates, just as Jesus was friendly with all sorts of people. But Jesus made sure that his close friends loved his heavenly Father, Jehovah. You can do the same. “Maintain your conduct fine” at school, and tactfully speak to others about your beliefs. Above all, make sure that you choose the best kind of friends.—1 Peter 2:12.
Some names have been changed.
TO THINK ABOUT
▪ What dangers are there in spending leisure time with an unbelieving classmate after school hours? Is such a course wise?
▪ After reading this article, do you feel that your relationship with a classmate has become too close? If so, what can you do about it?
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HOW CAN I MAKE REAL FRIENDS?
This video, produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, features candid interviews with youths from the United States, Italy, France, and Spain. It is available in 36 languages.
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Some of your classmates may be curious about your beliefs