I recently met a man who rose to prominence in Philadelphia as a leader and collaborator. He told me of his beginnings, growing up in a dangerous neighborhood where gunshots were common. In fact, as an innocent teen, he was held at gunpoint.
Our conversation transitioned to how his past had prepared him for the present. Most interesting was his love of family and how he was raising his daughters with strong and frequently communicated family values. As a single Dad with custody, he regularly looks for opportunities to introduce his girls to good female role models.
One thing he said stays with me, as I am sure it does for his girls. He has taught them to be themselves, to not give up who they are or suck up to others to be accepted. He tells them, “Friends must EARN your trust and friendship.” I love this because it gives the message that they are whole and complete- worthy of the best a friend can offer.
In this age of bullying, and fear of being left out or accepted, it is strong and useful advice. Certainly, the ability to get along with others different from ourselves is necessary in a blending world of oneness. But the ability to choose and keep real friends is not to be taken lightly. If you know well your own heart, and know what you stand for- in other words your deeper values- you can better decide if they are shared with others in what will be successful relationships. You can weather the fickleness of others, trendy associations, or disparaging remarks and judgments that may come your way. Standing strong in one’s strengths, gifts, and unique qualities creates a foundation to withstand those who would dare knock them down.
Wouldn’t it be great to start the school year with the strength of knowing what matters most, what is highly valued at heart, and having discussed this as a family? What if your child’s confidence came solely from the inside, not from the approval of others? How might that change the way friends and the behavior of others is perceived?
It’s a shift in perspective to think that a schoolmate must EARN friendship with your child. The shining, bright son or daughter who believes that will no doubt attract high quality friends. Help your child get past the fear of not being liked enough and have the conversations that will enable loving themselves first. It’s not about snobbery or lack of humility. It’s about knowing your own worth on a daily basis.