by Laura Harris
Last year, my older son returned from school with a “wish list” project. The only thing he wrote on his sheet of paper was, “I wish I had a friend.” As his mother, my heart broke to read those words. Although he was well liked by all his classmates, he found it difficult to make a meaningful connection to any of his peers. I want my son to reap the benefits of healthy friendships, which include an increased sense of belonging and purpose, boost in happiness, ability to cope with trauma and better physical and psychological health.
I know that as humans, we crave genuine contact with others in this world. Friendships are vital for our well-being, but they take time to develop. I also had to explain to my son that as with all relationships, friendships go through different stages and cycles, and that in some cases, friendships end.
I am well aware that with the advent of Facebook and other social media tools, the term “friend” has taken on a new meaning. I need to ask myself, what makes a good friend? According to Dr. Lissa Rankin, a true friend can be characterized as: wanting the best for the other person, showing sympathy and empathy, being honest, having understanding and compassion, enjoying each other’s company, being trustworthy, and having equal reciprocity. I told my son that in order to keep our friends, we must nurture these relationships by respecting boundaries, not becoming jealous or envious, avoiding gossip and complaining, listening, reserving judgment and respecting privacy.
I am reminded of the many stories in the Bible about friendships, which are meant to inspire me. I am also warned by God through His Holy Book to be careful whom I choose for friends, as their attitudes and behaviors can impact me. With guidance from God and His ministers, I can surround myself with positive and uplifting influences in this world.