Lesson: Friendships & Relationships
Different kinds of friendships
Working relationships - this is mostly found for people in a common institution,
such as church, school, or business. People are friendly to each
other because they need to. Though this can be a basis of true friendships,
it is also often complicated by competition (e.g., promotion, grades...).
Such competitive concerns often prevent such relationships from becoming
Superficial - this is the kind of "friendship" most people have with most
other people. You are nice to them because you don't need more enemies
and you may someday need their help. Keeping up with such "friendships"
are very troublesome, and the sad thing is, when you really need someone,
you can't trust any of these friends.
Common interests - they are perhaps the most common bases of friendships.
Common interests, however, do not guarantee true friendships. They
are like a door that can potentially lead to true friendships.
Bases of true friendships
Trust and honesty - true friendships are built on mutual trust and honesty.
You must know that you can trust that person, or else you would not be
turning to them when you need someone.
Commonalties - though not an absolute necessity, some commonalties often
Sacrificial spirit - as Christians, we need to understand Jesus' sacrifice
for us, for it is the best example of true friendship and love. We
need to serve others with a sacrificial spirit, just as Jesus did.
If you can love your friends with a sacrifice spirit, you will be able
to tolerate a lot of the differences between you and your friends.
There is nothing more touching in this world than a bilateral relationship
based on a sacrificial spirit.
Willingness to take risk - the tolerance mentioned in the last paragraph
does not imply tolerating the wrongdoings of others, however. True
friends must be willing to take risk in their friendships. If you
see your true friend doing something inappropriate or even sinful, you
have an obligation to confront him (or her) out of love. Although
this may cause some hard feelings, this is the right thing to do for your
friend's own good. Eventually he will appreciate your honesty.
A famous quote goes: "God loves us for what we are, but He loves us too
much to leave us the way we are."
Sources of potential problems
Doubts - the most destructive yet difficult to detect forces that destroy
friendships are doubts. Sometimes we are too afraid or do not bother
to deal with our doubts about our friends, and soon one doubt adds to another
and eventually the whole volcano explodes. There are two things we
can do to minimize the buildup of doubts. First, any doubt you have
about your friend should be investigated and clarified as soon as possible.
Second, do not share anything with that person that you feel uncomfortable
in sharing with him (or her). A lot of times our doubts are unjustified
and caused by our own lack of trust. Remember the principle: "If
you can't trust me on that, don't tell me about it."
Open to injury - anytime you open yourself to someone, whether of the same
or opposite sex, you open the door for them to do serious injury.
This is one risk you have to take. Open yourself to that person only
if you think that person is trustworthy and loving enough.
(for this discussion, this refers to only male-female romantic relationships)
Problems with early relationships
Lack of understanding of responsibilities involved - young people tend
not to consider all the responsibilities involved in a relationship.
Some do not care about the other person's feelings or potential injuries.
Others slip away when things get too hot. The TV advertisement makes
a good observation: "It's amazing how many men disappear when a baby shows
up." Unless you are ready to take on all the responsibilities involved
in a relationship, do not enter into the parts of a relationship that call
for such responsibilities.
Difficulty in understand one's own feelings - most young people also do
not understand their own feelings towards the other person. Many
confuse admiration, sympathy, or friendliness for love or affection, and
they become disappointed when they do not find love either in that party
or in themselves. Evaluate your own feelings, talk to others, and
pray hard before initiating a relationship.
Immaturity - some young behave immaturely because of lack of social experience.
How can 18-year-olds promise to take care of each other for life if they
don't even have the skills to make a living?
Improper goals - some young people do not seek sincere relationships in
their engagements with others. Many just want to have fun, and they
do not care about how the other party may feel afterwards. Many men
treat women as sex objects and do not care for the possible consequences
and the ladies' feelings. They do not realize an hour of fun can
have severe impact for the next 70 years.
Issues surrounding relationships
Strategic behavior - when two people interact, the timing of their actions
can have an impact on their "strategic" positions. For instance,
if a girl asks a guy out for a date, he is more likely to feel that he
is in a more advantageous position and therefore will likely to make demands.
Therefore, concerns for strategic behavior on the part of the other person
would lead people to not do what they really want to do. Such concerns
are extremely damaging to a friendship. Once a girl asked me, "If
you get something so easily, would you treasure it less?" I knew
exactly what she was talking about. She actively pursued a guy and
he treated her like a toy. There is no easy way to prevent strategic
behavior. Even promising not to use strategic behavior could be considered
as a strategic move (your position is weakened). The best solution
is to make the promise and keep it yourself regardless of circumstances.
Eventually the other party will realize your sincerity and hopefully return
the favor. This approach could be harmful if the other party has
no intention of returning the favor, however. Therefore, observe
the other person carefully and see if he (or she) is worth the risk or
not before proceeding.
Ulterior motives - some people have other motives when they enter into
relationships. It could be money, sexual satisfaction, pride, or
popularity. Some take pride in having sex with n number of people
in a month or having tons of girls fighting over a date with him.
Some people try to exploit the other party for money or power. While
the other party may consent to this at first, such "relationship" are doomed
from the start.
Short-term vs. long-term - many people do not realize that they seek different
characteristics in others at different times. One guy said once that
he is hanging out with outgoing, fun girls now, but if it comes the time
to consider marriage, he would go for the reserved ones. Unfortunately,
many do not recognize their own different preferences in the short-run
and long-run, and they rush into commitments which they regret for the
rest of their lives.
Loss of other friends - many people find themselves not having enough time
for other friends when they get a boy/girlfriend. The loss of other
friends are tragic, because many times they will have things that they
cannot tell their lovers.
A new model of relationships
Be sincere friends with as many people as possible and avoid exclusive
friendships, and when the time comes for marriage, pray to God to show
you that special someone who would be the best for you given the circumstances.
By then you would also know that person in a non-superficial way.
This lesson was developed by George Huang. Got a question or
want to publish this lesson? E-mail
Last updated: 4/22/00