Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a device that could measure the strength of your friendship with another person? Imagine if you and your friend could grab opposite ends of a translucent rope and immediately see the rope light up to reveal the condition of your friendship. Green means you are bff’s. That friendship is unbreakable. Orange means the friendship is not perfect, but it is headed in the right direction. Blue means the relationship is going to need some major work by both parties. Black means you would sooner use the rope to tie that person to a tree than say hello to them.
Of course, no such friend-o-meter exists in the real world. But if you want to find out whether you are a quality friend or not, I have good news: There is a way you can know! God gives us a daily proving ground to gauge our progress in this area—and that is within our families. The process of becoming a quality friend starts at home.
It Begins With Your Parents
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12). God dedicates a whole commandment to a person’s relationship with their physical parents! In The Ten Commandments, Dennis Leap writes, “[T]he Fifth Commandment, when understood in all of its depth, defines and safeguards the most basic of all human relationships—the family!”
Do you really believe that? God says that the first and most important human relationship you will ever have is between you and your parents. If you strive to prioritize this relationship, then you are building the foundation required to have solid friendships later on.
Mr. Leap continues later on, “Effective child rearing and the child’s response to such training will determine to a large part his later relationship to society. It most assuredly will affect his relationship with God.” Not only will a strong relationship with your parents benefit your friendships, it will benefit all the relationships you will ever have, especially your relationship with God. Think about that!
So how should you go about strengthening your bond with your parents? Your most important duty in accomplishing this task is to obey them lovingly and with an attitude of respect. That should be your top priority, but there are also other basic character traits that will strengthen your relationship with your parents: trust, loyalty, and sacrifice.
Trust is at the core of any relationship. If two people have zero trust in one another, you can be sure that the friend-o-meter rope between them will be pitch black. The more trust you have in another, the stronger and happier that relationship will be. If you want good relations with your parents, you must be truthful with them, and you must open up to them.
Loyalty is essential when things get tough. There will be some stormy seas and rocky roads throughout life, guaranteed. In a family, you learn how to stick together because you have to stick together. As the saying goes, you can’t choose your family. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Author Ryan Malone wrote about this verse in his article “Enriching Friendships” quoting the Moffatt translation of verse 17: “‘A friend is always a friend, he is a born brother for adversity.’ Struggles and tough times reveal what friendships are made of—they even deepen relationships. They distinguish real friends from fair-weather friends. True friends will not desert you when things get rough, or when they discover a weakness in you. They will see you through the adversity and help you overcome.” (You can find this article in the July 2016 True Education or online: https://pcg.church/articles/570/enriching-friendships.)
Have your parents ever abandoned you after you made a mistake or suffered through a trial? Or, more likely, have they given you more attention during those difficult times? As Elbert Hubbard once said, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”
Another quality you will pick up if you form a strong relationship with your parents is sacrifice. Your parents do a lot for you. They sacrifice a lot more than you realize, all so you can live the best life possible. Be glad you don’t have to worry about paying for your house or insurance or gas or any other necessity that is easy to take for granted while you’re young. With this in mind, try as hard as you can to sacrifice for them. The best ways to do this are to do your chores with a good attitude and always thank your parents when they sacrifice for you.
Learning Friendships With Your Siblings
It’s Sibling Selection Day! This only comes around every 9 months or so. This is your family’s big year to select your new sibling! And you get to participate with your parents in the selection of a new brother or sister out of a catalogue of quality applicants. You and your parents sit down on one side of the table opposite of the Selection representative, who passes you a catalogue. This catalogue has the smiling face and a short biography of each potential new sibling. Your parents look lovingly at you and say, “You’ve been such a wonderful child; we want you to choose the next one.”
Sibling Selection Day does not exist. God selects our siblings for us. He selects the birth order. He plans this out for the benefit of every future God-being. Your situation is no accident. However, the success of your situation surely depends on how you treat your siblings.
If you have a brother or sister you have a hard time getting along with, just know that personalities like his or hers exist all over the world! You will, if you have not already, meet someone who will make you say, “My brother used to do that to me and it drove me nuts!”
One time I was driving with my whole family when I heard one of my daughters say, “Daddy, he’s breathing on me! Will you make him stop breathing?” If you think the way my daughter did in that moment and you get annoyed when your sibling breathes, then I’m afraid I have some bad news: Every person in the world breathes. You’ll be annoyed by everyone.
How It Applies to You
If you want to gauge whether or not you are developing into quality friendship material, ask yourself: What is my relationship like with my brother or sister? What is my relationship like with Mom and Dad? Do I have a close connection with them? Or is it Frosty Blue or Tie-Them-to-the-Tree Black? Do we celebrate our triumphs together? Do we support each other through difficult times?
I want to leave you with three areas to assess the strength of your friendships, particularly with your peers. I guarantee you that if you work to master these at home—and it will take work—you will have no trouble being a quality friend who attracts quality friends. If you find you are slacking—then pick up the slack! As you develop yourself in these three areas with your parents and siblings, you will start developing stronger friendships outside the home.
Do you share what is going on in your day? Are you digging deeper than just the facts? How does your sister feel? What makes her think about things a certain way? What about your humor? Is it only movie quotes and put-downs? Beware of relationships based on criticizing others. Can you connect over one another’s achievements and successes? Are you sharpening one another in conversation?
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying [building up], that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Make sure your conversation edifies those around you!
In his article “How to Be a Friend,” author Greg Nice writes: “Empathy is the ability to understand another’s feelings or ideas. It is the ability to recognize, perceive and directly feel the emotions of another person. Notice, though, that empathy does not necessarily mean agreement. It is unlikely that you will agree with someone on every issue. … To be a friend we must be empathetic, so we can see why someone might have said something the way he or she did. We can see why they might enjoy that type of music; we can understand why they might get so upset when they lose a game or when they don’t get an A on every test. We might understand why they are impatient or curt with some people or laconic in their manner, etc.” (You can find this article online: https://pcg.church/articles/1187/how-to-be-a-friend.)
What do you do to serve your sibling? If they are younger, then give your time to them. Play a game or read them a book. If they are older and out of the house, send them an email or give them a call just to chat. There are so many opportunities out there to serve!
How To Know If You’re a Good Friend
If you want to gauge what kind of friend you are to others, first ask yourself: “How is my relationship with my parents right now? How is my relationship with my siblings right now?” If you find these relationships are not thriving, then prioritize fixing that. You will find that as you honor your parents and serve your siblings at home, your friendships at school and within the congregation will follow suit. Remember: Becoming a quality friend starts at home.