As the school year begins, you’ll find yourself asking your children all sorts of questions. What classes do you have? When do practices begin? Do you have the supplies you need? The list goes on.
Among the many good questions you’ll ask about school, sports, and schedules, I encourage you to ask also about friends. The reason is simple: few things will influence your child more this year than the friends they keep. This is a lesson both the Scriptures and the world teach us.
The Power of Friendships
The Bible speaks clearly about the influence of other people, for better or worse.
• “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20 ESV).
• “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV).
• “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6 ESV, cf. Galatians 5:9).
The Bible’s message is clear: you will look like those who surround you; you’ll become like those you befriend.
In the book, Quiet, Susan Cain records an experiment that illustrates the point even further:
Between 1951 and 1956 … a psychologist named Solomon Asch … gathered student volunteers into groups and had them take a vision test. He showed them a picture of three lines of varying lengths and asked questions about how the lines compared with one another: which was longer, which one matched the length of a fourth line, and so on. His questions were so simple that 95 percent of students answered every question correctly.
But when Asch planted actors in the groups, and the actors confidently volunteered the same incorrect answer, the number of students who gave all correct answers plunged to 25 percent. That is, a staggering 75 percent of the participants went along with the group’s wrong answer to at least one question!¹
Three Questions to Ask about Friends
In light of this powerful peer influence, I encourage you to open a conversation with your child by asking him three questions about his friendships as the school year begins.
• Who are your friends? Not the people you casually refer to as “friends,” but the people you’re closest to—the ones you call when you have free time; the people on your phone’s favorites list.
• What are your friends like? Are they funny? Serious? Energetic? Mellow? Sports fans? Book readers? What are their interests and pursuits?
• How do your friends affect your friendship with Jesus? Do they make you love Jesus more or less? Do they point you to Christ or away from Him? Do they make you feel good when you do the right thing, or do they make you feel awkward?
Asking these questions will not only display your interest in the life of your child, but will help him begin to think critically about his own friendships and the influence he has on others.
Through this and other conversations, I pray our children will grow to see the wisdom of one pastor’s counsel: “Let your best friends be only those who have made Christ their best friend.” For there is no better friend than Jesus.
¹Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. London: Penguin, 2013, p. 90.