I have always been someone who’s had friends and enjoyed spending time with them.
But there was always fear that if they knew the real me, they wouldn’t actually want to be my friend – if I shared honestly about the kind of girls, music or movies I liked; that I actually liked school and homework; that my dad was an alcoholic; that I was insecure about what I looked like. If they knew all this, then they would think I was weird.
So I was okay keeping most of my friendships shallow and distant. I started choosing to go to a lot of things other than friendships in high school – video games, girlfriends, screen time, porn, drinking, among other things. It wasn’t until my 20’s when I started turning to drugs that I finally realized I had to start building close relationships to help me handle life.
In high school, everyone wants friends, but the fear that comes with making friends can feel so great that we decide to choose other things. Here are 5 tips to help you begin choosing friendship over distance.
Choose friendship over silence
A friend loves you all the time, but a brother was born to help in times of trouble.
Proverbs 17:17 ERV
High school is filled with times of trouble whether it’s a failed test, break-up, acne flare-up, or an argument with parents or siblings. We need friends to get through it together.
As the scripture says, a brother was born to help in times of trouble. But what if you’re like me and were born into a family with only sisters!? Luckily, God puts friends around us who can become our brothers.
These brothers are meant to help us through tough times. Unfortunately, many times we are very reluctant to talk about what’s going on.
“Luckily, God puts friends around us who can become our brothers.”
I remember getting dumped and feeling like the world was going to end. I felt shame, embarrassment, regret and had no idea what to do. So, choosing to pretend I didn’t care, I went out and drank and did whatever I could to move on, instead of being honest about what I was feeling and letting my friends encourage me to help me through it.
What are some things you are going through but holding in? When is a time a friend helped you get through something hard?
Choosing to talk about the different areas of our life (friends, family, academics, girls) can transform our relationships from being buddies to being brothers.
Who’s a friend you can start telling everything to?
Who’s a friend you can decide to support right now, as they go through a hard time?
Choose friendship over competing
Insecurity was a word I didn’t have in my vocabulary growing up. I wish I had, as I would have understood myself a lot more.
I had so many insecurities. Talking to girls was scary; I thought about my acne, my body and the way I dressed a lot; and I was very desperate to be liked. I masked it by being proud and competing a lot.
I competed in school, sports, video games and for girls. I didn’t realize this was pushing my friends away and not bringing them closer.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
The Bible teaches us that the way we are supposed to build friendships is by valuing others as more important than ourselves. The more I competed with my friends, the more uncomfortable I felt. I was anxious, nervous and never stayed in any conversation for too long to avoid being viewed as awkward or not as cool as I tried to appear.
We should think about ways to help our friends and support them, instead of competing with them for attention or clout. When we decide to care for our friends, we stop thinking about how insecure we are and can actually start enjoying the friendship.
Check out this clip of Mark Ingram, a Heisman Trophy winning running back, who’s been one of the premier players on every football team he’s played on. In this video he highlights his love and admiration for his teammate Lamar Jackson and why he should be MVP. This is the type of friend we need to become to grow close.
What insecurities cause you to compete with your friends (body/appearance, intelligence, abilities)?
Who’s a friend you can be honest with about these things?
How can you encourage and admire your friends instead of competing?
Choose friendship over hiding
Once we start choosing other things over friendship, it starts to get easier and easier to stay there.
The more I drowned myself in video games, pornography, impurity, and criticalness, the harder it seemed to want to talk to anyone. I told myself that it was all I needed, but I felt miserable.
 Lord, I prayed to you again and again, but I did not talk about my sins. So I only became weaker and more miserable.  Every day you made life harder for me. I became like a dry land in the hot summertime. Selah  But then I decided to confess my sins to the LORD. I stopped hiding my guilt and told you about my sins. And you forgave them all! SelahPsalm 32:3-5 ERV
Have you ever had a friend who was just negative and down constantly? Have you ever been that friend? When we decide to hide our sin and not talk about it, we become weak and miserable. We lose the motivation to be close to people, and we start to hide.
The solution is to talk, with God and with others. Deciding to talk about your sin is one of the most freeing things you can do! I am someone who can carry a lot of guilt.
Luckily I have a friend who I pray with every Monday. In that time we pray about the things that we are guilty about, so we don’t have to be held back. We end up getting to laugh together at our frailties and some of our ridiculous thoughts instead of being discouraged by them.
Start identifying and praying about your guilt everyday. Choose a friend you trust to talk to daily about what’s guilting you out.
What is something you are guilty about right now?
Who is a friend you trust, one you can start talking to about your guilt daily?
Choose friendship over fighting
In high school, I was bitter and angry that my dad drank, but also that he didn’t do things like call me and ask how I was doing.
I told myself I didn’t need him, even though I was sad and wanted to be close. Instead I chose to be bitter and fight with him. I let this ruin our relationship.
Forgive someone, and you will strengthen your friendship. Keep reminding them, and you will destroy it.
Proverbs 17:9 ERV
The Bible reminds us that forgiveness is powerful in strengthening relationships. When we hold onto hurt feelings and not talk about them, we destroy the relationship.
When I chose to talk to my dad about the things I was hurt by and to forgive him, our relationship completely changed. There was no more tension and anger. We were able to enjoy being around each other and have the relationship I had always craved.
Choose to start resolving hurt feelings you have in your friendships. Bring up the things you are feeling in your relationship with your parents, siblings and friends, and decide to forgive them, no matter what!
What’s something you have been forgiven for? What did that feel like?
Is there any bitterness or hurt feelings you need to resolve in your friendships?
Choose friendship with God
When building close relationships with others, nothing helps more than having a dynamic relationship with God.
 This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his only Son into the world to give us life through him.  True love is God’s love for us, not our love for God. He sent his Son as the way to take away our sins.  That is how much God loved us, dear friends! So we also must love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us. If we love each other, God’s love has reached its goal—it is made perfect in us.1 John 4:9-12 ERV
When we decide to build a friendship with God, we start to understand God’s love. He decides to love us despite all our sin and shortcomings.
I couldn’t muster the courage to forgive my dad until I saw how much God forgave me. I couldn’t talk to my friends about the guilt and insecurities I had until I talked to God and saw that he loved me. When you get close to God, you will become a better friend.
Make the first person you decide to get closer to be God. Decide to start reading the Bible every day, even if just for 5 minutes.