My daughter, Ophelia, is nine years old. She is slipping out of childhood and into young adulthood. We already have frequent conversations about clothes, life goals, and appropriate relationships with boys. Recently, the question of female friendships arose. She, being very tender-hearted, was feeling guilty about making new friends when she has so many wonderful friends in the city we moved from a couple years ago. Her question was this: “If I already have a BFF, wouldn’t it be unkind to make a new BFF?”
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
-Romans 12:10 ESV
It has been a long time since I had my own bestie. Stephanie and I had all the marks of a true, God-honoring friendship. We were ourselves together without fear or comparison. We were able to confront each other out of love and receive exhortation just as easily as we encouraged and complimented each other. Ours was the kind of friendship that bled into sisterhood. But God took her home in 2005. Since then I have referred to her as my best friend. That is, up until recently.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
Over the years, I have made many wonderful new friends. Great friends, just like Stephanie. As I was thinking about how to respond to Ophelia, I realized why calling Stephanie my best friend was not an attribute of holy friendship and here is why:
- In order to determine the best of anything, we must compare. In this instance, we’d be comparing our closest friends to each other, a scenario in which nobody wins. For the “chosen” friend, they now realize that all it will take is a slip or two and they will be demoted, a pressure that is not going to cultivate honesty and peace. For the unchosen friends, well, it is like going to your favorite hotel only to see a big, red, flashing “NO VACANCY” sign. You can sit in the lobby and chat, if you’d like, but there is no point in getting too comfortable.
- The term Best Friend also implies a life-long commitment. While there is nothing wrong with having a lifelong friend, that situation would be both a blessing and an exception to the rule. We are all growing and learning in different ways. God teaches us different things at different times. The ebb and flow of relationships as we change is a normal result. We are made for community and different friends will be more or less helpful in any given situation. To deem someone a BFF is to expect them to be there for you always through whatever. After a fashion, it is to expect your friend to fill a God-shaped hole in your life.
- As with everything, the primary purpose of friendship is to glorify God and love our neighbor. If we are looking for or have a best friend, our primary focus will be that goal (or person). The likelihood of having eyes to see others who need help will be in shadowed. Our available time will be lessened and our willingness to extend ourselves will also be lessened. In short, by keeping the bulk of our focus on one person (spouse and children aside), we are hindering our usefulness to Christ and His good work.
The truth is that many of us have best friends, but there may be lapse of wisdom in designating that friend as such. Particularly with children, who rarely have the maturity to navigate nuance, in our home, we have begun to discourage the BFF mindset. I told my daughter that it is a wonderful blessing to have good friends. It is a manifold blessing to have several good friends. This leaves her free to make new friends without diminishing the importance of old friends. How does the song go? Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.*Disclaimer: This post is merely a reflection on how we view friendships in our home. It is not intended to exhort anyone else, although I do hope it is at least interesting, and at best encouraging.