What Should I Know About School Friendships?
“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.
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 loved,” was nearby. (John 19:25-27; 21:20) You need friends like that—people who will stick with you through thick and thin!
Perhaps you feel that you’ve found friends like that at school—one or two of your classmates with whom you’ve hit it off well. You share some similar interests and enjoy talking together. To you they may not seem to fit the category of ‘bad association.’ (1 Corinthians 15:33) “You see these kids almost every day,” says Anne. “So you feel comfortable around them. It’s not like being around your spiritual brothers and sisters, where at times you feel you need to be more careful how you act. At school you can relax.” In addition, you may find yourself viewing things the way Lois did, who says, “I wanted my school friends to see that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not as different as everyone thinks, to show them we’re normal.” Are those sound reasons to become close friends with your schoolmates?
Why the Need for Caution?
Consider what happened to Maria, quoted at the outset. 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.” Lois experienced something similar. “The attitudes of the other kids rubbed off on me,” she says. “I began acting like them.”
That outcome isn’t surprising. After all, to remain close friends with someone, you need to share that one’s interests and values. If you forge close friendships with people who don’t adhere to your Scriptural beliefs and standards, such association is bound to affect your conduct. (Proverbs 13:20) For good reason, the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.”—2 Corinthians 6:14.
What You Can Do
Does Paul’s counsel mean that you should shun your classmates and remain aloof? No! To fulfill their commission to “make disciples of people of all the nations,” Christians need to know how to relate to men and women of all races, religions, and cultures.—Matthew 28:19.
The apostle Paul set an excellent example in this regard. He knew how to converse with “people of all sorts,” even though he did not share their beliefs. (1 Corinthians 9:22, 23) You can follow Paul’s example. Be cordial with your peers. Learn to communicate well with them. However, resist the urge to let your speech and conduct conform to that of your classmates. Instead, as soon as possible, respectfully explain to them why you choose to live by Bible standards.—2 Timothy 2:25.
True, you will stand out as different, and this isn’t an easy thing to do. (John 15:19) But why not look at the matter this way? If you were in a lifeboat surrounded by people stranded in the water, how could you really help them—by abandoning the boat and jumping in with them? Certainly not!
Similarly, at school you’re surrounded by people who lack the protection that comes from being one of Jehovah’s friends. (Psalm 121:2-8) If you were to abandon Jehovah’s standards just to be close to your classmates, you would only endanger your own spiritual health and happiness. (Ephesians 4:14, 15; James 4:4) How much better it would be if you tried to help your classmates join you in the lifeboat, so to speak, by showing them how to serve Jehovah. Really, in what better way could you prove to be a true friend?
“I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.”—1 Corinthians 9:23.
If some of your classmates are open to learning about your beliefs, allow them to express their views too. Genuinely listen. When you speak, do so “with a mild temper and deep respect.”—1 Peter 3:15.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Many who are serving God today learned about the Bible from a classmate who had the courage to speak up about his or her faith.
If I feel that my relationship with a classmate has become too close, I will ․․․․․
If a schoolmate ridicules my beliefs, I will deal with the situation by ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why do you think it might seem easier to make friends at school than in the Christian congregation?
● What dangers are there in spending leisure time with an unbelieving classmate after school hours?
● What benefits come from letting your classmates know that you’re one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
[Blurb on page 143]
“I used to act just like the other kids at school, so it was easy to make friends there. But I learned from my mistakes. Now I have friends inside the congregation—friends I can trust.”—Daniel
[Picture on page 146]
How can you best help a drowning person—by jumping into the water or by providing a life preserver?