“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Jan. 2001, 16
Be your best self.
Treat others how you would like to be treated.
Keep your standards high.
Seek out friends who have high standards.
Remember that when you live in a manner pleasing to the Lord, it might not be pleasing to all people.
Work to earn the approval of the Lord, not your friends.
Pray for guidance.
“Just be yourself.” You’ve probably heard that advice countless times when discussing friendships, especially friendships that take you out of your comfort zone. Friendshipping nonmembers can be just that kind of challenge.
Being confident about who you are and what you stand for is one of the best ways to be in the world but not of it. When you are well grounded and know who you are as a person, others are attracted to you. In addition, that kind of integrity can help keep you safe from temptations and bad influences by giving you a finely tuned internal warning system.
The advice to be yourself might seem hard to follow. How can you be yourself when you’re developing and changing rapidly?
Your tastes in matters like music, clothing, and hairstyles will almost certainly change over the years. Even your opinions on more important subjects may evolve as you learn more about the world around you. But think about the things that are at the core of who you are. Think about the traits you want to stay with you always. Are you kind? Are you honest? Can people trust you? Are you helpful? Do you strive to keep your testimony strong? If you can remember all those important things that make you who you are, it won’t matter if one year you are friends with your soccer teammates and the next year you are spending all your free time practicing with the jazz band. No matter what changes you make, you’ll have an internal center, a guide to keep you strong no matter who you’re friends with.
If you are struggling in this area, it would be a wise idea to spend some time alone to think about who you are and where you’re going in your life. If you have a journal, write your thoughts and feelings. Make a list of the core traits you need to preserve. If you don’t keep a journal, this problem would be a prime reason to begin one. Don’t be afraid to include traits on your list that you don’t yet have; use your list to set goals for self-improvement.
Once you have a firm idea in your mind about the kind of person you are, it should be easier to make decisions about keeping your standards, even when others think your standards are a bit strange. However, you may not always get the acceptance you desire. After all, having integrity sometimes means it will be necessary to turn down an invitation or even end a friendship. When you live your life in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord, it might not be pleasing to all people. You won’t fit in where you don’t belong. In fact, your friends may be glad to have a good example to follow, a person who will show them the way to be happy.
When you think about your nonmember friends, don’t worry too much about their approval. Instead, earn the approval of the Lord and yourself. Your friends can’t help but notice what an attractive quality that is.
Try to set a good example for your friends. Be kind and honest, as the Savior would be. It’s a sure way to impress them and do what’s right. Doctrine and Covenants 121:9 says, “Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.” If you look for people with those qualities, you’re sure to find true friends.
Spencer Cope, 13
In the process of teaching your friends about your standards, don’t act as if you are better than your friends. Always work to maintain an equal relationship with them. Remember, the Spirit is with you if you are choosing the right.
Sister Rebecca Esi Essiakoh, 21
Nigeria Lagos Mission
Many of my friends aren’t members of the Church, so I do my best to live the gospel so they can learn more about it. If they are about to do something wrong, I nicely encourage them not to. When I am kind in my approach, they remain my friends.
Shalinee Bisnath, 15
Trinidad, West Indies
I have friends who aren’t members of the Church, but they like me because I set a good example and stand up for what I believe in.
Bryce Clark, 12
In my hometown there aren’t very many members of the Church. But I find that if I show others who I really am, they respect me. Remember, what’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right.
Stacie Ann Christensen, 16