by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff
Editor’s Note: Authors Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff asked girls what they wanted to know about friendships. What they discovered is found in their book Mirrors & Maps: A Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Teen. Although Mirrors & Maps is written to young teenage girls, the excerpt from it below would be great for you to discuss with your preteen or teenage daughter.
We want to help you get ready for the friendship journey you’re taking in these years. But rather than only hearing our thoughts, we thought you might like to hear from other girls, too. So we asked girls your age what they wish they knew about friendships with girls and guys. These are their questions—and our secrets:
Why do girls gossip about each other?
The reason we gossip is—in a weird, twisted kind of way—because it makes us feel better about ourselves to say something bad about someone else. It also makes us feel connected to someone to have a common enemy. For example, you may be sitting beside two girls who are talking about someone you know and don't like much, either. So you jump in and add your negative thoughts about the poor girl. While it tears the other girl to shreds, it makes you feel more connected to the two who were initially doing the tearing. Gossip brings girls together—in a really yucky way.
We all fall into the gossip habit at times. Women gossip, too—a lot of girls never grow out of it. But nothing's good about gossip. The only parts of us that feel better when we do it are the really selfish, insecure parts. There's a great verse in the Bible that gives us some direction on the gossip question. It says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians 4:29).
Be different. Stand up for your friends. You will end up looking—and feeling—much better if you do.
Why do girls act differently toward you when they’re around guys?
Girls sometimes act differently toward you when they’re around guys because they’re thinking more about the guys than about you. Some of this is normal. Any girl can get distracted when a boy she likes looks her way. But you don’t want to make a habit of it. A lot of girls lose friends in middle school and high school because they drop their friends whenever guys come along. You don’t want to be one of those girls.
How should I deal with cliques in school?
The best way to deal with cliques is the best way to deal with people in general—be kind. There's a difference, though, between kindness and servitude. You shouldn't have to earn your way into friendship. So if you want to be part of some group, don't be so desperate to get in that you offer to do their homework or buy their lunch.
One of the big problems with cliques is they make you feel like maybe the friends you have aren't good enough. But unless your current friends are unkind or a bad influence, you could hurt a lot of feelings by giving up one group of friends for another.
If you don't have many friends, don't set your sights on belonging to the popular group. Find the girls who have reputations of being the nice ones in school. They're easier to be friends with and will usually treat you with kindness. If girls are mean to you talk to your mom, a school counselor or another adult you trust. They can usually give you good insight on how to deal with the problem. Most adults—including us— know the best way to deal with mean girls is to be kind and avoid them when you can.
Why are girls jealous of other girls' successes?
Girls have a hard time being glad for each other when good things happen, mostly because we want those good things for ourselves. We all feel this way at some point or another. If you feel it a lot, though, you might want to pray about it. Talk to your mom or someone older about it, too. God can change your heart to make you more generous than jealous.
Your friends will feel jealous of you from time to time, too. This is normal. But if you have a friend who gets jealous every time something good comes your way or gets really angry about it, you may need to distance yourself from that friend.
How do I know if my friends really like me for who I am?
One of the best ways to tell if your friends like you for who you are is to be yourself—then see if they're still around. One of the worst ways to tell is when you ask them, "What's wrong?" or, "Are you mad at me?" every time they're quiet or act a little different than usual. Usually, the reason your friends are quiet has to do with them, not you.
Trust is one of the hardest things to learn at any age. But if your friends are still your friends—if they talk to you, call you, sit by you, or ask you to do something every once in a while—they probably like you for who you are.
If your friends like to tell you how you should change or how they think you should be acting different, they're not really your friends—at least not the kind of friends you want. You want and need friends who will like you for you and encourage you to be more of the person God made you.
What are good qualities to look for in a friend?
The best kinds of friends are those who are loyal, who will stand up for you no matter the cost, who are kind to you. Good friends encourage you and tell you when you do something well. They gently challenge you when you do something that's not true to who you are or what you believe. They bring out the best in you. They make you want to be a better person just by the way they treat you.
But remember, there's no such thing as a perfect friend, except for God. Even the best of friends will hurt or disappoint you sometimes.
What's the best way to make and keep friends?
The best way to make a friend is to be a friend. Think about what you want in a friend, then act that way. Don't do things to other people that would be hurtful to you. Take initiative. We know a lot of girls who feel no one likes them, but the reality is, they haven't done much to try to make friends. You can't wait for someone to come to you and ask for your friendship. They might be shy, too.
If you want to be friends with someone, sit by her at lunch. Talk to her. Ask her questions. Get to know her over the course of a few weeks. If it seems like you have some things in common, great! If not, don't try too hard to make it work or follow her around to try to make her your best friend. Girls like other girls who are confident in who they are and don't look desperate to have friends. We all feel desperate sometimes, but that's something you tell someone when you know them really well.
Adapted from Mirrors and Maps by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff. Copyright © 2008 by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff. Used by permission of Zondervan.
Melissa Trevathan, the executive director of Daystar Counseling Ministries in Nashville, has worked with kids, teenagers, and adults for over 40 years. She’s been a guest on TV and radio programs in the U.S. and Canada.
Sissy Goff has been the director of child and adolescent counseling at Daystar since 1993. She’s written for CCM magazine and also cowrote two other books with Melissa.