Middle School Problems (Friendship)

Middle School Problems
Do you remember when you were in middle school? What were the life altering issues of the day?
In this strand of blog articles I will go through some of the issues that middle schoolers deal with. 
Hopefully I can use my infinite wisdom combined with scripture to shed some light on dealing with these issues.

Today's topic is:  

What makes a good friend?
To me a good friend is someone that is willing to put teir own desires aside long enough to care about the other person in the friendship. There is a great little country song by Tracy Lawrence "Find Out Who your Friends Are". It talks about how your true friends will show up when you need them with their big ole hearts. That is what I picture when I think of a friend.

Friendship in Scripture:
Next week we will be studying David, Saul and Jonathon in our middle school Sunday school class.
We pick up the story in 1 Samuel chapter 19.
19 Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.”
Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”
Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.”
So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before.
Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him.
But an evil[a] spirit from the Lord came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre, 10 Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.

Now Jonathan recognized the dangerous situation that his friend David was in and came to his aid even though it was against his father's will. That is a biblical picture of friendship.

In middle school we are introduced into a new atmosphere that we have never seen before. I run a before and after care program at a local elementary school. So I get to spend a lot of time with children from 1st-5th grade. I see how they treat each other. I have spent seven years in youth ministry, so I have seen how middle schoolers treat one another. Something radical happens between elementary and middle school. I call it the middle school awakening. They spend most of their life in elementary school dependent upon their parents for their social rules and structure. When a student enters middle school they are suddenly thrust into an every man for themselves social hierarchy. They become aware that their actions have consequences socially. Most of the time it causes them to be much more careful about mistreating others. Unfortunately some of them find out very early that they can use negative behavior to their advantage. They learn that by putting on person down they can elevate their own social standing.

Making friends in middle school can be difficult because most people only want to be friends with others that are like them. I think our parents instill this in us because our culture has overwhelmingly taught us the opposite. We are almost forced to find others that are just like ourselves to make friends with. This causes competition. It is the problem of the niche. When two things try to hold the same place in a social system, one of them will rise to success and the other will fall into failure. Betrayal is thus spawned because middle schoolers see value in taking out their at the time friends, because they will secure a social place for themselves. This often leads to young students in my ministry with hurt feelings because they have tried to be Jesus and show love to their classmates and friends only to be used and tossed aside. 

The great thing is that God has provided us with an answer to these social problems. The example I used in this post is fitting. Jonathan was the son of the king and yet in a sacrificial manner helped David the largest threat to his families throne. He defied his father to do what was right. When we teach our teens to go and love those who would seek to hurt us we must prepare them to deal with the pain that comes with rejection. When our students encounter those negative forces at school, are they prepared to love them even after they have mistreated them? I know most of their responses are to find a new friend and to never speak to that one again. Their parents may even advise this sort of action. This doesn't solve anything except lessen the chances that our students will have to show love to that person again. I encourage you as parents or pastors to allow your student to continue in a broken relationship with someone who has done them wrong. Don't tell them to or let them withdraw from the relationship. Help guide them through the tough times. Give them a place to feel secure but also allow them to fall a bit. If your attention and love is there, they will be stronger for it. They also may see what the results of continuing to love those that would seek to harm us are. You may see relationships develop that are stronger and more loving than if they had moved on and tried with another person.

That's about it for friendship this week.
Until Next Time -Just Jon


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