The Value of True Friendships–Part I

from Bet She'an, Israel

from Bet She’an, Israel

What are your friends like? Do they encourage you? Do they support you? Do they influence you in a positive way? Do they go out of their way to help you in time of need? Do they remember important events in your life? If you answered “yes” to these questions, even most of them, then you’ve got some true friendships.

Proverbs 18:24 “A man who has friends must himself be friendly. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times. And a brother is born for adversity.” The Hebrew word for friend is re’a (ray-ah) Strong’s 7453 It means friend, companion, neighbor, fellowman, a familiar person. The present reference is a prescript for a healthy friendship; a friend should love at all times.

I have true friends now, but it wasn’t always this way. When we’re children, we play with our neighbors and others at school and church. But I learned very quickly how cruel children can be. Already a person with issues I didn’t even know I had, I was a very sensitive and shy child. Any derisive word from a playmate would crush me. Especially the boys picked up on that and went out of their way to make me feel like dirt.

In elementary school, I had a group of girls I called friends, and of that group, there were two I was closer to. One lived in over in the next block, the other only four blocks away. We all went to the same elementary school. My one friend Jean (named changed), the one who lived four blocks away, and I had so much in common. When we were in fourth grade, we both chose to play clarinet and sat together in band. We were in Girl Scouts. Our moms were troop leaders. We were pretty much of the same denomination, only we went to different churches.

photo from Flickr

photo from Flickr

So imagine how I felt when we entered junior high and she ignored me whenever she saw me at school. I’d say, “Hi Jean!” and she’d look the other way. This happened throughout seventh and eighth grade. She moved away for ninth grade, and I only saw her a few times after that. Day after day for two school years, she would ignore me. Why? She wanted to be in with the “popular” crowd, and as sensitive as I was, there was no way I’d ever be popular. I was pretty much one step above the “outcasts.”

Every once in a while, though, I’d get a phone call after school from her. “Could you come and stay all night Friday?” That’s what we used to call sleepovers. Thrilled for the chance to actually be with her and have her act like a friend I went whenever she asked, but she didn’t ask often. It was wonderful, though. We’d have just as much fun as we did in elementary school, when it didn’t matter if someone was “popular” or not.

Come Monday, back at school, I always gave her a chance to be her “real” self, the one I was with over the weekend. But that didn’t happen. She’d go back to ignoring me. After a while, I’d ignore her, too, to save her the embarrassment.

One day at after gym class, there was some sort of blowup involving me, her, and another friend from elementary school. I was furious. I came home and cried for a couple of hours. I took all of the school pictures of Jean we’d traded from grade school on, and ripped them up. I couldn’t take anymore.

Thank God, true friends aren’t like that. We were children, but if you asked her now, she would probably say she wouldn’t remember being that way. We never ever talked about it when I saw her in the grocery store years later, when we were either in college or later when she came back to my hometown for a visit with relatives. She was always her “true” self then, and that’s probably why she wouldn’t remember.

I only remember all of it because it hurt so badly. And I still remember what caused the blowup, but I won’t say because it doesn’t matter. A person with rejection issues is cut below the quick with every wound. The deeper the wound, the more pain, and the more memorable it is. I forgave her a really long time ago. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, it just means to not hold it against her. But even though the memories are still strong and detailed, I shake my head and think about how far I’ve come.

What about you? Did you have fickle friends growing up? Leave a comment and let me know.

 

 

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