Sixth grade was the year I became self-aware; that is to say, sixth grade was the year I became aware that I was a self-centered, obnoxious jerk of a human being. It had taken twelve years for me to grow this full of myself; I was not a nice person. I know this for at least two reasons.
First, there was a boy in my class, a very kind boy, who wanted to know if I would be his girlfriend. (“Being his girlfriend” meant we would stand next to each other in the car rider line while we waited for our moms to pick us up after school.) This young man sent one of my friends to ask me if I would “go with him.” Shocked and appalled by his lack of courage, I sent her back with the message that if he wanted me to be his girlfriend, the least he could do was come ask me himself. This might not have been so bad had I planned to say “yes” to his proposal, but I hadn’t thought that through, you see. When he came to me bearing his heart in his hand, I callously rejected him. I didn’t think of this as cruel. I just thought I was being honest. I think I was a little bit proud of myself, in fact.
The second reason I know I was a jerk is because I entered the race to be “Principal for a Day” that year. Our class was learning about elections, and the winner would get to miss a day of class and shadow our principal. I summed up the odds and decided my opponent was easy pickings. I actually remember thinking I was cuter than she was, so surely I would win. It’s horrible, I know!
Not only did I not win the election, my own campaign manager voted for the other candidate. So yeah, that hurt. I’m glad I lost, though. That loss was like the blaring alarm clock of reality waking me up to my own nastiness. I realized that day that I didn’t want to be obnoxious or self-centered. I wanted to be a good friend.
Since then, by God’s grace, I’ve learned how to be a better friend. It’s not as hard as you might think.
1. Be a “There You Are” not a “Here I Am” person. My friend Jani taught me that when I enter a room, my focus should be on those in the room not on myself. This concept is simple but so powerful. Give the person you’re speaking with the gift of your full attention. Don’t seek to lift up yourself in the conversation; seek to lift up your friend.
2. Listen more than you talk. James 1:19 tells us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. How simple is that?
3. Don’t just make statements. Ask questions. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a person who never asks you questions about yourself? It’s grueling. My friend Bobbie likens a conversation to a tennis match; she says someone serves you the ball, and you always hit the ball back to the other person. Ask questions in your conversations!
4. Never, ever, ever, EVER participate in gossip. Paul warns against it in 2 Corinthians 12:20. In Romans 1:29—31, gossip is included in a horrendous list of things right along with evil, malice, and murder. Make a decision to keep the names of others safe. Overlook their offenses. And don’t listen to other people gossip either!
5. Bear with others in their imperfections. We are all figuring out how to be the women God has called us to be. Don’t be surprised when someone fails you or offends you. In fact, expect everyone to fail you, including yourself! God knows we’ve got a lot of growing to do, so He tells us to bear with one another in love over and over again.
Finally [sisters], rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Cor. 13:11).
What a promise! The God of love and peace will be with us as we aim to love others—to be good friends. May our friendships reflect the love of our Savior.
What can you do today to be a friend who shows the love of Christ?