One thing I learned very quickly when making friends my freshman year of high school is how different I was from my classmates. To give a specific example, the girls I ate lunch with spilled gossip as if it were their second language, continually complaining about one person or another. I came home from school one day and told my dad, “I think [my siblings and I] were raised differently.” He heartily agreed.
At first, this difference did not bother me. I did life with my classmates and, overall, everything was great. That is until about the middle of my freshman year when words against gossip became messages at my church and the Spirit brought to my attention how I was adopting the habits of my friends.
There’s a Native American legend that likens your conscience to a triangle that spins next to your heart, pricking you whenever something conflicts with your morals. The more you ignore the feeling or justify your actions, the smoother your triangle becomes until one day it’s a circle and you can’t feel anything.
My triangle had become dull. I was beginning to gossip, too.
To sharpen my triangle, I changed my mindset by putting the temptations I was giving into on a red alert list so, when they appeared, I would be able to identify them for what they were and respond appropriately.
The aftereffect of this was that the temptation to listen in, add on to, and/or question rumors became annoying. I had to ask myself, “What’s more important? To hold fast to what God says to be true in the Bible, or to pursue shallow relationships with people I don’t connect with?”
I grew up believing that no one understood me, so I struggled with this question because all I have ever wanted is to be loved unconditionally, for someone to genuinely listen to what I have to say. I hate feeling lonely, but God’s word speaks against gossip, slander, and vulgar speech, and that’s what my “friends” were doing.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up.”–Ephesians 4:29a
I told my peers this, tried to be a good example, and asked them to cease engagement in what seemed to be their favorite pastime, but they refused and continued in their ways. “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;” Proverbs 20:19 says, “therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.”
So I walked away from them. I chose to obey God even though that put me in exile and took away any connections I could have made. Following God’s commandments is more important than fulfilling your desires.
Friends or God? I chose God.
By the middle of my sophomore year, my battle against gossip began to have a noticeable impact on my relationships with the other girls. I became socially awkward because I didn’t fit in with the community of my school. I was an outcast or, as 1 Peter 2:4 says, “a living stone rejected by men.”
I was the first person called upon when something needed to be reviewed, but the last person remembered when a guest list was being formed. I was excluded, ignored, and forgotten, and that stung.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”-John 15:18-21
Toward the end of my sophomore year, I became tired of trying to be a good influence, so I distanced myself from my peers, choosing loneliness over forced conversations. With the social aspect removed, I no longer found school appealing. I arrived when I did in the morning and left the second I could later that afternoon. When the last bell rang, there was no reason for me to stay.
Then came the day God connected me to a group of Christ-following students I didn’t even know existed, peers who share my morals and values. These are people who befriend the loner, bring their Bibles to school, pray over their lunch, and incorporate God into their conversations. I had never met anyone like them, and their company was like a breath of fresh air.
It was because of them that I eventually began going to North Hills where I discovered an entire building full of like-minded people. God not only answered my prayer for one genuine friend, He brought along a whole group, a family that has adopted me as one of their own.
Because of this, I want to encourage you to choose obedience. The majority of the people in your life, at school especially, will form circles you won’t be involved in, and that’s okay. You don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of, and God will bring them along.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, and most definitely not in the way you’d expect, but He’ll bring them along and one day you’ll look back and be able to see how God was walking beside you every step of the way.
Deuteronomy 5:33 says, “Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you.” Doing this will hurt, and you will suffer, but the pain is a reminder that you’re on the right path and God will deliver you if you remain faithful.
“The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.“–Romans 8:18