I have two daughters in middle school. Someone pour me a glass of wine. Seriously! Actually, my girls are pretty awesome middle schoolers, and for the most part, they have chosen some pretty awesome middle school friends. However, even these sweeties get caught up in some girl drama. So, here are some things I want my girls to know about being a good friend. We talk about most of these regularly, as they come up in specific situations, but I wanted to have them written down for my girls and for yours!
1. Think about how you are treating others, more than how they are treating you.
The middle school years can cause otherwise normal, healthy people, to become overly egocentric. Being a good friend means you are thinking more about how you can love others than how they are loving you. If everyone does this, then everyone is being loved, cared for, and thought about. When we shift our focus from, “how am I treating you?”, to “how are you treating me?”, we get all huffy and bent out of shape over all of the ways our friends fall short. When we focus on, “how can I love you?”, we are more attentive, thoughtful and quick to offer grace.
2. Don’t stir the pot with drama.
There is always one, sometimes two, girls who bring on the drama in every group. I do my best to tell my girls often, “don’t be that girl”. Drama is really about bringing attention to yourself, and feeling like you are in control of others, in some way. It is usually based on hyper-emotions, quasi-true information, and a whole lot of misinterpreted junk. Drama is never helpful. Ever. Take it from someone who was a whole-lot-o-drama in the past. Drama comes from a place of deep insecurity, and can be toxic. Do your best to diffuse drama when you see it. Speak truth bravely, and don’t be manipulated by it.
3. Be mindful of manipulation.
Girls can do this in such covert ways, it should really be considered an art. But, it isn’t Christ like. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t part of being a good friend. Manipulation is about holding something over someone in a way that shows you are in control. Witholding friendship, turning others against someone, threatening to tell someone’s secrets, are just a few of the games girls play. They say, “I am in charge here, so you better, grovel, ask forgiveness, or do what I want, or else”. Again, I say, “don’t be that girl!”. Be the girl who keeps her friend’s secrets, who quickly reconciles, and who includes others, not excludes them. God is not manipulative, and Jesus never held anything over our heads. Be the type of girl who offers friends safety and security, instead of constant mind games!
4. Forgive freely. Don’t make people work for your forgiveness.
Not forgiving is about holding power over someone, in the same way manipulation is. Friendships aren’t about power, they are about encouragement. Christ freely forgives, and so should we. It doesn’t mean we don’t get hurt, and it doesn’t mean we don’t draw boundaries. But, being a good friend means making it easy for your friends to admit they were wrong. Chances are you will need to be forgiven also, so, offer to others what you would hope they would offer to you.
5. Encourage other’s strengths, don’t point out their weaknesses.
Be the girl, who is confident enough to call out a friend for all of the things she does well. Point out her hidden talents, cheer for her when she makes the team, and congratulate her on an opportunity that maybe you wish you had been given. Speak life to your friends, and avoid being overly critical. Most likely, your friends are more than aware of all of the places where they fall short. Encourage them in the ways God has gifted them. We are all good at something, and your friends successes don’t have to mean your failures. They can be your successes as well!
Be a good listener. Take mental note of what your friends say, and offer constructive feedback. As you get older, this will become easier, but you have to start somewhere. Are you someone who actually hears what her friends are saying, or are you too focused on yourself to get any thing?
7. Be “for” your friends. Choose them. Be on their side.
When someone is talking badly about your friends, stick up for them. Don’t join in, just so you can feel cool for the moment. Be the girl who has her friend’s back. Also, part of being “for” your friends is wanting what’s best for them. If you know a friend is in trouble, or is doing something potentially dangerous, love them enough to tell someone who can help. Even when it is hard, be the friend who looks out for her peeps well being.
8. Say hard things, gently.
Sometimes our friends need to hear the truth. However, when the truth is dripping with sarcasm and cutting words, it isn’t all that palatable. Be the girl who can speak the truth with grace, in a way that makes your friends want to chew on it for a while. Pointing things out in a snotty, I-know-better-than-you kind of way, is not helpful.
9. Protect their name.
Wherever you go, make sure that you are always mindful of how you speak about your friends. Make sure that you are never the one running your friend’s names in through mud! Talk about them in great ways when they aren’t there. Tell others about all of their awesome qualities, and leave when the conversation goes in another direction.
10. Pray for them.
When you listen, you will know how to pray. When you are thinking through how to love them, instead of how they love you, you will know how to pray. When you spend your time with them, you will see areas of need, so you can pray. Ultimately, it is God alone who brings about lasting change, so commit to praying for and with your friends. Battle for them when they can’t battle themselves and battle with them when they can.
11. Don’t let boys get in the way.
Seriously girls. When you get a boyfriend don’t forget your friends. When your friend gets a boyfriend, don’t take it personally when she wants to spend some time with them. If you like a boy, but he doesn’t like you, but does like your friend, let it go. He wasn’t yours to stake your claim on. Don’t ditch the girls for any guy. Remember if he is worth keeping, you won’t have to.
12. When you are wrong, say you are sorry.
You will be wrong. You will do something to hurt your friend’s feelings. When you do, admit it, and apologize with sincerity. Sometimes, you won’t be sure if you are wrong. For the sake of unity, let your friend know that you value them, and that you are sorry if you have done something to hurt them. Be a big girl, and be honest with your shortcomings.
13. Pursue Jesus, together.
Pick friends who want to know Jesus as much as you do. The way they do that, might not look exactly like the way you do, but hopefully it will be their desire. If you are both pursuing the Lord, do so in a way that is mutually encouraging. Maybe read the same part of the bible together. Or, you could chat once a week about what God is teaching you. Find some way, no matter how young you are, to make your relationships with God a part of your common ground. If you have a friend who doesn’t know the Lord, pray for them, and openly share with them. Be there when they have questions, even if your answer is, “I don’t know, but maybe we can find out together”. Starting this young, will build a firm foundation for your relationships with other ladies, later on in your life.
14. Serve one another, and serve others together.
Do things that are helpful, thoughtful and needed for your friends. If there is someone in your class, neighborhood or general circle of people, who is in need, serve them with your friends. You really get to know people, when you work along side of them. Be a part of what God is doing in your area, with your friends. And be the girl, who thinks about how she can serve her own friends!
15. Friends won’t be perfect, but they are worth it.
Your friends will let you down. They will hurt you, tell a secret of yours, or go after a boy you like. No friend is perfect. But, a good friendship is worth working for. It will require an investment of your time and patience. It will be messy, fun, and everything in between. Fight for your friendships. Work through hard stuff, so that you can continue to grow together. Pray for understanding. Friendship will cost you something, but you will be abundantly blessed by a strong, healthy friendship. So, don’t give up on people too quickly. Put in the time and energy to make your friendships great. Be that girl!