My oldest son, (almost) 11 and in the fifth grade, was face timing with a friend (another 5th grade boy) a couple of nights ago. I wasn’t eavesdropping but he walked into the kitchen to hand me something and because face time works like a speaker phone, I heard part of the conversation.
Friend: I have to ask you something but I want you to be honest.
My son: Ok
Friend: I mean it, be completely honest.
My Son: Ok, I will.
Friend: Who do you like more, ______ or me?
My Son: Um.
Friend: Honestly, I don’t care at all if you like ____ more, I just want to know. Just tell the truth.
And then my son was back up the stairs and I didn’t hear how he handled the question.
My heart literally broke in half, and I started to be gripped with fear for my son. I wanted to interrupt and help him out, but I knew that wasn’t the best choice.
I’d like to share with you two stories from my childhood. Both happened while I was in the sixth grade, and I assumed this was just a “girl” thing, because girls are nasty and mean.
My best friend and I were coming into a rough stage in life because there was a popular group of girls in our grade and we really wanted to be part of it.
This popular group of girls pulled my best friend aside at some point and told her a bunch of things she was allowed to say about them to me to see if she could get me to talk bad about them.
So,my best friend desperate to fit in caused this situation to unfold. One day she says to me “how do you feel about those girls?” I say something casual and safe like “They’re ok. They can be nice.” So she started saying the ugly rehearsed things about them that they had approved as bait to trap me. I took the bait thinking I was safe with my best friend. I told the truth about how I thought they were mean and used people.
The next day, she told them. And they confronted me like an army of a thousand – screaming, cussing (yes cussing in 6th grade) pushing me against the brick wall of the school. I was humiliated and left with absolutely no friends.
There was always one popular girl who really didn’t seem to me to be as nasty as the others. She laughed and played along, but it was rare to hear her say much about people or be the one to instigate.
One night she called me on the phone. She said “I wanted to apologize for the way so & so has been treating you. I don’t think it’s right and I should say something but she’ll just be nasty to me too. It has to really hurt your feelings doesn’t it?” After some more conversation I admit that yes, it has hurt my feelings and I think she’s a really mean person.
All at once, a whole room full of girls started laughing and screaming at me through the phone.
You see, it was a slumber party I wasn’t invited to and I was on speaker phone.
So the other night when I heard the start of what I knew was the start of a horrible game being played on my son, I just wept.
The next night my husband and I spent some time talking to him about the situation and asking how he handled it.
Turns out, He said “I like you both the same.” And then admitted to us that everyone at school right now is playing this game of asking who you like best and then turning on each other and causing a lot of broken friendships and hurt feelings.
Satan’s tactics to destroy fellowship among God’s children are timeless and flawless. He shows up like a wolf in sheep’s clothing and devours kids (and ADULTS) one person at a time.
I’m glad we were able to talk with our son about this before he has any major scars. I’m so thankful God let me hear that conversation. We explained to him that it shows a huge character flaw in someone to need assurance by claiming it over someone else.
You know that saying “When someone is talking about another person (even if it’s true) it says so much more about their character than it does the person they’re talking about.”
That’s the ultimate truth about gossip or triangle-trap friendship games, and most of us don’t take a step back to see that. We either get caught up in the attention/rumors or we fear the backlash of not participating.
I don’t blame that little boy for asking my son what he did. I really don’t. He’s trying to figure out fifth grade, and see where he stands. Does he have real friends, is he liked, does he have more to offer than someone else?
The problem is – playing those hurtful games isn’t the way to prove any of that true.
These boys all need help and guidance.
I feel even more assurance that this friendship study / monthly event / whatever it’s going to truly turn into is not only necessary for me – it’s necessary for my children. I’m going to plan a weekly study with my children this summer going through what it looks like to be a good friend to others, and what qualities they should be looking for in friends they can really trust.
Do you have any unforgettable stories from your childhood while navigating friendships?
What topic would you include if you were writing a study on friendship?