Responses - Advocacy / Dating / Instruction & Teaching Abstinence

Friendship in the 21st Century

Abstinence is saying yes to the rest of your life.

Friendship development is a skill desperately needed by teenagers today. Teen's today stand in front of many challenges and one of them is who can I trust and build a relationship with. When this quesstion is answered success is one step closer to becoming reality.

All of us want and need friendships. Early friends teach us many needed skills for future relationships. For example, we learn to share, to understand someone else's feelings, to communicate and to practice making and keeping friendships. As we grow older, our relationships develop and deepen.

Genuine Friendship
Can you spot a real friend? Much has been written on the qualities of true friendship, and if we look at a wide selection of writings, basic signs of friendship will surface time and time again:

  • Friendship takes time. Friendship evolves as two people make time for one another to share activities, plans, and interests. Acquaintances, or people to whom you know only well enough to say "hi", certainly are not true friends; but this group can be considered the pool from which we can make, with time, close and genuine friends.
  • True friends show kindness toward each other.
    True friends care about what is really best for each other and will have the courage to speak up if a friend is doing something that could be harmful to himself and/or others.
  • Genuine friendship is built on loyalty and trust. When you are having problems, a true friend will stand by you and won't "tell the world" about what you are going through.
  • In a real friendship, you will give of your time and energy to your friend, and will feel good about being able to help. This doesn't mean that you control or dominate the other person, but simply that you are there when he/she needs you.
  • You can be yourself with a true friend and know that you will be accepted.
  • Artificial Friendship

    Perhaps the clearest sign that a relationship with another person is not one of true friendship is when one person is being used by the other.

    At every stage in life this occurs. For example, a 10-year-old may want to visit a neighbor's house only because of the new mountain bike he can ride there. At age 13, he may be friendly toward someone only because of that person's I-Pod. At 16, he may seem to be friends because of not having a car (the ticket to popularity and freedom!) and the other person does. True friendship, however, cannot be built on selfish interests such as these. In each example one person is exploiting or using the other.

    Artificial or "fake" friends are marked by insecurity (saying or doing things that you don't really mean), compromise (not being true to your values in order to please someone else), and lack of loyalty (not standing by someone when he or she really needs you – "fair weather friends").

    Relationships such as these not only fail to meet your needs but can be very hurtful and frustrating as well. Experiences with artificial friends can carry over into other future relationships and tend to make you mistrust the motives of those you want to trust. These early hurtful relationships can make it hard for the person to develop strong bonds.

    Building Friendships

    There are four basic levels of friendship:

    1.  acquaintances
    2.  casual friends
    3.  close friends
    4.  intimate friends (this does not refer to sexual intimacy; it can mean emotional, spiritual connection — "soulmates" who complement & share their "innermost being" levels)

     acquaintances

  •  casual friends
  •  close friends
  •  intimate friends (this does not refer to sexual intimacy; it can mean emotional, spiritual connection — "soulmates" who complement & share their "innermost being" levels)
  • Acquaintances, the people you say "hi" to when you greet them in the mall, make up the pool of potential friends and potential dates. These acquaintances become known as your peer group.

    Today, casual dates and "hookups" are so prevalent amongst teens and young adults. "Hookups" are one night stands with strangers (someone never met before), or that are only acquaintances. Any relationship starting on the foundation of sexual activity will not last long. All that lasts is the broken heart.

    Analyzing the behavior, character, dress, activities and future goals of various acquaintances will help you make good decisions about which people possess value systems resembling yours. Narrowing down which peer group best compares to your family and personal values allows you to identify your next smaller group of potential friends.

    Some members of the pool of acquaintances (peer group) develop into the next level of friendship called casual friends. Generally speaking, casual friends are people with whom you feel comfortable sharing activities and interests. Most friends that you make in a lifetime are casual.

    It takes much time and sustained commitment to arrive at the third level of close friendship. From within the casual friends, a smaller group of close friends begins to gather. In an discussion of building friendships, it should be understood that although close friendship may be your goal, that level of commitment sharing and trust is harder to achieve.

    Intimate friendship is the fourth category. Friends in this category are very special and rare. At this level of sharing, intimate friends feel comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings. This type of friendship is usually marked by a deep understanding of and appreciation for the view and values of those involved. A desire for intimate friendship is a basic human quality that calls for a giving of self to others; it can result in a lasting love relationship.  A person would be fortunate to have 5 intimate friends in a lifetime.

    One of those intimate friends will be a marriage partner. Marriage is the means ordained to bond one to his/her spouse, and to provide for the future of humanity. Marriage is a lifetime covenantal relationship for the health and well being of a man and a woman, a family environment for children to be produced and raised, and an institution for the well being of society at large. It is the basic unit of civilization; the healthy survival of marriage and family is crucial to the healthy survival of civilization as we know it.

     Each day in America, 8000 teens will be infected with a sexually-transmitted disease (STD/STI) 1
    One of 4 sexually active teens in America is infected with an STD/STI 2

    The younger the person is when he/she starts sexual activity, the more likely that person is to have multiple sex partners. Research shows among those who were age 20 in 1992, 74 percent of these males who had sexual intercourse at age 14 or younger, they had 6 or more partners during their lifetime. About 48 percent of those who initiated sex at ages 15 or 16, had 6 or more lifetime partners, and only 10 percent of those who did not have intercourse until age 17 or older had 6 or more lifetime partners. The greater the number of sexual partners a person has, the greater the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. 3

    Now there are 8 couples living together for every 100 married couples. In 1970, there was 1 cohabiting couple for every 100 married couple households. 4

    The pressure today to develop only shallow friendships, or friendships that are all about "me", is significant. In a world of one night stands, and how many partners can I bag this weekend, today's relationships are not started to last. Many relationships are over before they even really begin. With broken relationships come broken hearts. It takes an incredibly long time for a person's heart to heal.

    1 Meg Meeker, M.D. (2002) Epidemic, DC, Regency Publishing Company.
    2 AGI, Sex and America's Teenagers, New York: AGI, 1994, pp. 19-20.
    3
    http://aspe.hhs.gov/HSP/97trends/sd4-4.htm
    4 Waite, L.J. & Gallagher, M (2000), The Case for Marriage, New York, Double Day.

    [Teen-Aid Inc. letter dtd 31March2006, LeAnna Benn, 509.482.2868, www.teen-aid.org]