In My Own Words/My Life/Teen Life Authentic Friendships Made Me a Better Person by Jasmine Qronfleh You might find yourself still finishing that summer reading or already drowning in mountains of homework. With the start of a new school year, I wanted to share with you my experience with one of the most wonderful gifts God has given us: authentic friendship. Friendship is one of the greatest things we have in life. We are all given so many gifts that we take for granted. I know I took for granted the socks my grandma gave me on Christmas but then one cold January day I found myself needing them. Friendships are a gift that God gave us to help us stay faithful to Him. I used to think that the point of friendship was to have fun with people I liked. I have realized though, that friendship should go deeper than playing Xbox or watching Netflix together. Friendships should be keeping us faithful to God and should build each other up rather than put one another down. I don’t know about you but my friendships have not always been authentic. In high school my friends were not always keeping me faithful to God. They didn’t really respect my relationship with God or my religion, even if they pretended to. As I reflect on my four years in high school I find that often times I was seeking other people’s approval. I remember one night I was driving to pick up some of my friends and when they got in my car I quickly changed the radio from Christian music to some other station. I wasn’t being my authentic self. Several times I had friends encourage me to underage drink. Even though I declined I still encountered pressure from them. They would tell my what a “fun drunk” I would be and say other things, all while insisting they “weren’t going to pressure me”. I finally realized that these friends didn’t care about me enough to respect me choices. At the time the majority of the friendships I had were holding me back from growing in my relationship with God. I worked tirelessly to gain others approval and for what? The only relationship I needed to seek was one with Christ. People who aren’t being authentic friends are ultimately leading you someplace else. If they aren’t leading you to Christ where are they leading you? Mine were leading me into temptation. Bad friendships are like junk food, we can eat all we want but still be malnourished. We can have as many friends as we want but if they aren’t authentic then we will always want more. We are called to focus on things that are lasting, like our relationship with God. Seeking others approval verses seeking God’s approval made me change who I was. I was held back in my faith, but when I stopped worrying about being liked by others and stopped seeking others approval, I became relieved and happy. I placed everything in God’s hands. I laid it down and told Him that I didn’t want to feel this need for approval. I started seeking His friendship first. Now that I have done this, I’m not embarrassed by my faith. I pray in the middle of the lunchroom, I talk about daily Mass with people in the dentist’s office, I drive into my school parking lot jamming to Matt Maher or Lecrae. I also now have authentic friendships that lead me closer to God every single day. God provides. At first I had a fear of being an outcast or alone. I was afraid of pursuing better friendships at the cost of the ones I already had. I brought it to prayer and asked God for genuine friendships. That’s when I met Blair. Blair is my best friend, my sister in Christ, and my accountability partner. I had gone through almost three years of high school not very focused on real friendships. Once I finally placed it in God’s hands, He gave me such a wonderful gift. I can tell Blair all about my prayer struggles and how much I love pizza. We go to daily Mass together and watch Parks and Recreation. She encouraged me to do the Marian Consecration with her, even though we were a couple hundred miles away from each other. Ultimately we are just trying to get each other to Heaven. She will call me out when I haven’t been to adoration and I will do the same to her. She loves me enough to tell me what I need to hear rather than what I want to hear. This is authentic friendship. I still have some great friends from high school who challenge me to be a better person but because Blair and I share the same beliefs we can hold each other accountable in our Faith. This relationship is helping me stay faithful to Christ. Friendship is such a gift. If you don’t have authentic friendships I urge you to make this school year count and start seeking God. He gave each of us this gift of friendship and He wants you to receive it. “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter, whoever finds one finds a treasure.” Sirach 6:14 Editor’s Note: “In My Own Words” is a section of blogs on LifeTeen.com that contains submissions from our readers. If you love reading LifeTeen.com and want to contribute a blog about how you, as a teen, live out your Catholic Faith in your life, feel free to email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep submissions under 750 words.