Written by Rod McNeill (Leadership blog)

Last week I was asked to speak to the Year 7 students about friendship. It seemed to go well and probably has a broader application. Here is an outline of what I spoke about. It may help parents get a sense of how we work.

There is a great sentence in the Bible about friendship.

“Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. (Proverbs 27:17)

Have you ever seen a butcher, or maybe your parents at home, using a piece of round iron to sharpen a carving knife? This is exactly the image: Saying that friends can sharpen each other. Through friendship and good relationships, you can improve the lives of others.

Do I make people better? That is a great question to ask yourself. Do I make people better by the way I encourage and advise? Am I being an example? Am I helping my friends do better?

Right now, you are at the beginning of secondary school and in the next five years, you will go through great transformation. You will go from being, in many ways, childlike to becoming adult like. During this time of your life friendships will be profoundly important, they will matter the most. Your friends will be your greatest influence and a lot of your thoughts, cares, and emotions will be wrapped up in your friendships. It will also be the place where you face the most challenges.

Let us first have a look at places where friendships can go wrong. Often, the challenges or worries a person is facing are expressed in their friendships. Maybe you can see yourself or someone you know in these examples:

 “Clutchy Clinger”: the possessive friend who believes “you can only be my friend”. This person cuts you off from others, cut others off from you, are exclusive, and put people down. Often this comes from insecurities about friendship.

 “Ticking Timebomb”: the friend “you don’t know how they’re going to be on any given day, and you have to be careful you don’t upset them”. The unstable type who is easily angered and highly emotional.

“Joking Jerk”: This friend often can be hurtful or cutting and then say, “I was just joking.” However, these jokes are at your expense. A joke is not a joke unless everyone is laughing.

“Dangerous Dufus”: This friend, in the name of excitement or action, wants to do dumb stuff e.g. “Hey look here’s some petrol and matches, let us have some fun!!”

“Dominant Monkey”: What you do has to be their way. Everything is about power and control. Have you heard of Queen bees and wannabees?

Maybe you recognise a bit of yourself or someone else in these. I am not saying avoid these people, because there are times when we will all make mistakes and get it wrong. I want to encourage you to try and sort out your friendships and help each other. Sometimes the best thing to help you in life is a good friend. I still have friends that were my friends from school. Sometimes, if people refuse to be good friends, you may be better off without them.

What are the attributes of a good friend?

At this point of the talk the students gave me their ideas and we wrote them up on the board. They came up with powerful and mature ideas.

We all know what is needed to be a good friend, although, it is harder to be one. Attributes of a good friend are: caring, courageous, calm, considerate. Friends who listen to you. We need to look after one another.

Finally, I want to talk about how to solve problems. Here are five things to consider:

  1. Communicate correctly: be careful of social media and misunderstanding. Talk to the person; do not talk about the person. Try and get your thoughts ordered, even write them down. If you think there is misunderstanding, and this happens easily, say so and try to sort it out.
  2. Use ‘I feel’ words rather than ‘You are’. When you blame and accuse, it makes people defensive and they stop listening.
  3. Be kind and courageous, let people know you care. You need courage to sort problems out rather than avoid them.
  4. Realise how important friendships are. Don’t give up on people too easily or discount them. Here is some good advice I got many years ago: “people remember how you treat them much more than what you say to them”.

Get help. Sometimes you need advice and wisdom from other people who you can trust, maybe older people. We’re here to help.