The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

I wanted to ask you a question. I am kind of maybe what you call shy. Maybe because of the ten schools I been through in my school life. Every year it has been a new school, but that stopped last year. Students in my class talk to me, saying things like "Hey! What's up?" How can I invite another student to hang out with me after school? I am very lonely. I really would like a friend from school. The worse part is that sometimes I can't even start a conversation because I have nothing to talk about. So my question is: How can I make a friend at school? Should I go to one of the students who sometimes says "Hi" to me and say "Do you want to go out to lunch at Subway?" How can I approach someone and be able to talk to them or ask them if they want to spend any time with me? Well not actually ask them but just to know? I don't always have something to talk about, but I want to have a friend. How can I make a friend in school? I just want a friend whom I can talk to, study with, or hang out with me after school, but I just don't know how to have a friend.

Answer

"A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24).

Even quiet, shy people can have friends, but it does take a small amount of effort on your part. True friendship is an investment in time and energy, so people tend to be friendly with those whom they can easily get along.

Let's start with one simple fact: The greatest compliment that you can give someone is to listen to what they say. Not listening like you do your mother where the words go in one ear and out the other, but listening so that you become interested in what the person is saying. "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20). For example, listen to the tone of how someone answers a simple question, and pay attention to their body language. This is actually hard for most teenagers to do. There are studies that show most teenagers can't read facial expressions and body language accurately. They tend to assign extremes to the emotions shown.

So when you see someone, instead of saying the standard "Hi!" ask them something more direct about themselves. "How did you do on that math test?" Or, "That song sounds awesome. Who is the group?" Or, "Hey! I heard you're on the baseball team. How did you get so good?" Don't pick a boring subject, pick something that truly interests you. As they talk, ask a question once in a while when you don't understand something or you would like more details. Those little questions show you are following the conversation and that you are interested in that person. The "trick" is that you don't have to carry the conversation. All you need to do is encourage the person to talk about something they are interested in personally.

Not everyone you met will be interested in being friendly with you. It is just a fact of life that you must accept. But things that are worth having are worth taking some personal risk. If you are willing to risk having a few people ignore you or tell you to get lost, you will find a greater number who are flattered that you knew something about them and wanted to talk to them about themselves.

Eventually you will find people with whom you have a number of common interests and a friendship will blossom from there. Don't ever try to rush it or force it. Allow the relationship to develop at its on pace. One of the foundations of a long lasting friendship is the shared experiences that you have together, but it will take time to build those up.

Now, I need to give you a word of warning. I know you badly want friends, but not everyone is worth having as a friend. There are a lot of bad people in this world. The people you hang around with will influence your thinking. For example, "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul" (Proverbs 22:24-25). You can see this around school. Look at the people who spend time together and then notice how much they dress alike. Even their hair styles are often similar. We often like to think we are our own person, but when people want the acceptance of someone else, they will change their ways to conform to what they think others want. "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits'" (I Corinthians 15:33).

You will also find people who are willing to be your friend, but in reality they only want to get something from you. "Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies" (Psalm 141:4). As an extreme example, drug dealers are "friendly" because they are looking for people to get hooked on drugs and thereby line their pockets with the sucker's cash. There are people who are "friendly" because they want to use you for sex. "For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life, to keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids. For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; and an adulteress will prey upon his precious life" (Proverbs 6:23-26). It may be difficult at first to distinguish between those who are sincere and those who just want to use you -- which is another reason not to rush a friendship.

So look for people who will make you a better person because you are with them. "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20). You know they will influence you, so find people that will influence you to be better than you currently are. "I am a companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts" (Psalm 119:63).