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Why I Don't Let My Kids Use the Term "Best Friend"

Why I Don't Let My Kids Use the Term "Best Friend"

We can never default to the "it's just a word" mentality. It is never just a word. It has meaning, purpose, directives, and significance, which can significantly change a culture.

People know where you are from depending on what you say: coke, pop, soda. When people start talking about the names of generations, they discover I am a millennial—every time I feel the need to say, "Yeah, but just by proxy—not by personality" because of the stereotype and connotation that comes with being a millennial.

Years ago, we had a pastor who helped change the mentality of our church body with language—we don't go to church because we are the church. Instead, we taught ourselves and our children to say corporate worship and the church building. When I corrected my kids, I would often ask myself, "does it really matter? It's just a word."

But yes! It does matter because it is a constant reminder of the people of God and what we do when we gather. Now more than ever, it is important to define words biblically and execute those words with precision. Platforms like Facebook have redefined "friend" for us all, and its usage is wide and ubiquitous, and typically aimless. I believe this has attributed to the notion of "quantity over quality."

And just in the last seven years, our American government has redefined words our parents never thought would be up for grabs—marriage, man, woman, and all personal pronouns. They legally changed the meaning of those words resulting in future generations being forced to reckon with how they will categorize humanity around them.

Classifications for Comfort

This, then, is my approach to my daughters' conception of friendships—as well as my own. When we use certain words, we attempt to classify and categorize them for our own comfort so others get the right impression of what we are communicating or feeling.

I give a qualifier to my millennial by proxy because I do not want people to immediately associate me with entitlement, excessive technology usage, and avocado toast. Likewise, when we use the term best friend, we clearly communicate a lot of information with that superlative usage. We want our hearers to know that we have a history with that other person or that group; we are closer than other friendships because we have shared trials and victories; we have inside jokes; this is my go-to person or people so that I am never alone.

Rachel Jankovic is an author and podcaster who says that terms like "best friend" are typically just handles people use to hurt others or elevate themselves—even subconsciously or out of habit. And for my own daughters, their best friends change weekly. It is definitely worth thinking about and considering.

A few terms have been used to widen the BFF idea—however, it still falls into the same category: "tribe" and "your people." All the same, it's a matter of exclusivity.

Jesus' Work

And I know what many naysayers will say: Jesus had an exclusive group with the twelve disciples, and He is perfect. Yes, both of those facts are very true. But how did Jesus walk in that group and with those men?

In Mark 3, He withdraws from the city to the sea with his disciples, but they are not alone for long. Verse 7 says a great crowd followed them, and we see that Jesus did not rebuke the group because He had "His tribe" with Him. Instead, He engages them. In Luke 19, He and the disciples are passing through Jericho, and Zacchaeus intersects His attention. Jesus did not thwart him because He was "with His people," and they had stuff to do—He considered Zacchaeus worth the time and attention.

We do not see Jesus calling His disciples turned apostles (Mark 3) His best friends. In fact, we do not see them getting much of any special treatment in public. It is all behind closed doors that He washes their feet. It is up on top of a mountain that He transforms them into apostles.

When it is just the thirteen of them, Jesus uses everyday occurrences to teach them, but when they are in the city squares, His attention and focus are set on the rulers of the synagogue, the sinners, and the sick people of the cities. In all these occurrences, we see Jesus working and inviting the disciples to witness His work—standing shoulder to shoulder.

Go and Make, Not Sit and Stay

The Great Commission says to "go and make disciples"—not to sit around and get spiritually and emotionally fat with "your people." Yes, we need people in our lives to sharpen us. Yes, we are supposed to be in community. Yes, we need the Church. Yes, friendships are good things—they are biblical gifts from the Lord!

However, there is an upward trend of working harder and harder in the direction of finding where you belong rather than doing the Lord's work alongside His people. This is what C.S. Lewis had in mind with this quote:

"Friends are not primarily absorbed in each other. It is when we are doing things together that friendship springs up – painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophizing, fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction. Lovers look at each other: that is, in opposite directions." C.S. Lewis

Satan keeps many individuals very busy trying to develop, define, and remain in their tribes rather than working toward our actual callings.

Discernment, Patience, and Un-hurried

I teach my daughters that it is okay to have a friend who is closer to you than another. Ecclesiastes and Proverbs speak highly of godly friendships that sharpen us and uphold God's truth rather than the world's. We see many righteous friendships in the Bible because we know that God created us for community. It is no secret to my daughters who my close female friendships are—and it is not because we enjoy copious amounts of road trips, coffee dates, or long conversations on the phone.

What is not okay is touting the label "best." Why does it even matter to communicate that to the world if the two or three of you know that you share a special bond? It appears as if the only real reason is to promote status and set up exclusive boundaries, keeping others out. All women know what this looks like—to be on the outside of an exclusive group. Yes, you may get an invite, but you know that you don't hold the same label as another.

My girls must learn now, at young and impressionable ages, that it is unholy to show partiality to others; it is unkind to purposely leave others out, so they feel esteemed; it is sinful to claim any other identity than that of being in Christ. So yes, I correct my girls when they call someone new their friend—we have to train our kids how to have discernment, patience, and be un-hurried in who they let into their lives while still maintaining kindness and peace.

And I do help them find another word instead of "best friend," telling them to reserve that for Jesus and maybe one day a husband. My 8-year-old once responded, "well mama, if you have a best friend, that means you have a worst friend, and that doesn't sound like Jesus." Touché.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund

Kate Stevens is a worshiper, wife, and mom, and with the help of the Lord, that is her hierarchy of work. Beyond this, she works with the youth and children at her church and edits as a freelancer. She enjoys reading, writing, running, cooking, and practicing thinking pure and lovely things. 

After being unsure if they ever wanted children, the Lord eventually blessed Kate and her husband Clint after nearly three years of waiting. They welcomed their first daughter in 2011, another daughter in 2013, and yet another daughter in 2016. Kate considers this her most time-consuming, emotion-full, sanctifying, not always pretty but trusting in the Lord’s plan, and blessed work. Stuck in a house with four females, her husband Clint consistently reminds Kate of her identity and union in Christ. 

You can read more of Kate's work here.

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