I’ve always been counseled to choose my friends carefully. But I’ve also been counseled not to judge others. How can I do the one without doing the other?
New Era Answer:
In the broadest sense we should be friends with everyone, showing respect and kindness even to those whose standards are different from our own.
We must be careful, however, in choosing our close friends, because they will have a great impact on our lives. We need to be sure that close friends are also good friends—friends who are good for us.
How do you know if a friend is good for you? By the kind of person you are when you are with him.
Good friends help you live the standards you want to keep. Good friends help you to be happy and healthy and righteous. Good friends help you through moments of weakness or sorrow.
Good friends don’t try to talk you into disobeying your parents. Good friends don’t influence you to try something illegal such as drugs, alcohol, or vandalism. Good friends don’t encourage you to break any of God’s commandments.
But how do you choose good friends without judging? In one sense you can’t, because choosing is a process of making judgments. The Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment.” [JST, Matt. 7:1]
What is righteous judgment? For one thing, it is necessary judgment. We have no need to judge most of the people we meet. When we must judge to some extent, as in choosing friends, we should not “write people off” with negative labels such as “no good,” “worthless,” “wicked,” “immoral,” or “dishonest.” There is good in everyone, and to see only the bad is both unjust and foolish. It is unrighteous judgment.
Although you shouldn’t condemn people for the decisions they have made, you don’t have to place yourself at risk by going along with their bad decisions either. You don’t have to go to the convenience store with someone who brags about shoplifting. You’re not required to be blind or stupid.
On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of perfect people, so you can’t make that a requirement for friendship. What you’re looking for are friends who share your basic values and are working hard to overcome their weaknesses—as we all should be doing.
The process of choosing friends needn’t be negative. If you seek out friends with virtues in important areas, most of the serious negatives will automatically be eliminated. Also, you should not be narrow-minded in your choices. You will miss out on wonderful friendships if you judge people on the basis of superficial distinctions such as race, social class, wealth, popularity, or physical attractiveness.
What happens when you can see (and we hope you can) the good side to someone who is considered “wild”? You feel for him and want to help bring him back to a good way of life. You can see that he desperately needs a good friend, but you don’t want to get pulled into his behavior yourself.
Certainly you should be friendly, but should you spend a lot of time with him? Maybe not.
Basically, you have to take a hard look at yourself. Can you be talked into doing things you shouldn’t? If you tend to give in to the stronger personalities of your friends, then you have to stay away from close association with those friends who aren’t living like they should. You can’t be of any help by going along. And speaking of going along, don’t accompany your friend to places where either of you may be subject to the wrong influences. Instead, invite him to come with you to wholesome activities. Such fellowshipping is a lot safer if you do it on your own “turf.”
In church we sing a hymn that says, “Hold to the rod, the iron rod; ‘Tis strong, and bright, and true. The iron rod is the word of God; ‘Twill safely guide us through,” (Hymns, 1985, no. 274). If you have a firm hold on the iron rod, only then can you reach out to others.
It isn’t selfish to think of yourself and your own personality. Choose friends who will help you and whom you can help. Then as a group of good strong friends, you can reach out to those who need to find their way back.
Choose close friends that you can feel comfortable around, but at the same time you can “just be friends” with everybody. Just because someone doesn’t have the same beliefs as you doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t a good person. Besides, maybe you will help to influence that person.
Jill Stilson, 14 Orangeville, Utah
Choose as your friends those people who make you feel good about yourself. A real friend will help you and strengthen you. She will believe in you because she wants you to be the very best you can be. A friend will always stand by you and walk with you.
A friend isn’t a friend if you are made to feel terrible about yourself or to do things you shouldn’t. Never lower your standards for someone else. This isn’t the road that leads to happiness. A true friend wouldn’t ask this of you.
Be prayerful. Heavenly Father loves you. He will help you know if someone will be a good influence on you. And remember to be a friend yourself. Good luck and much happiness in the future.
Sondra Gailey, 19 Clifton, Idaho
Choose your friends carefully and keep all the other people as acquaintances. I have a friend who has many friends. I asked her one day. “How come you have so many friends?”
She said. “They aren’t all my friends. I have five real friends and a lot of acquaintances. I talk to everyone, but those who are my closest friends I choose with care.”
Amanda Courtney, 13 Cowpens, South Carolina
While attempting to establish relationships. you are probably going to pick people who have the same likes and dislikes along with similar moral standards. If someone violates the commandments or laws you are trying to obey, you most likely aren’t going to want to stay close friends with him or her because you won’t be able to relate to each other.
Yet in doing so you don’t have to “judge” them. You may end up being acquaintances with them, but not spend the quality time that you do with true friends—friends who, even though they may not be LDS, will respect you and who have similar values.
Rebecca Lawrence, 19 Erie, Pennsylvania
Just get to know everyone and always be nice. After you know people, then decide which ones you think would be good friends and get to know them better. But still be nice to those who do not become close friends.
Mindy Johnson, 13 Sandy, Utah
You need to take the time to get to know people. Then you will find out if their ideas and values are the same as yours. If their ideas and values aren’t the same as yours, you can still be friendly to them without judging them. You just won’t be close friends. Also, pray and listen to the Spirit. I moved to Texas about a year ago, and it was hard for me to make friends. I prayed with faith every night before I went to bed, and I now have good friends chosen carefully without judging them. It took almost a year, but it happened.
Sarai Lehman, 12 Granbury, Texas
I think that it is important to choose your friends carefully, but remember that no one is perfect. Everyone has both good qualities and bad qualities.
Jessica Rupp, 12 Hyde Park, Utah
Choosing friends is an important decision. It can affect how you feel about yourself, who you marry, and even your eternal salvation. Pick out a few people who you would like to get to know better. You don’t have to judge whether they are good or bad people, just compare their actions with your own. What are their interests? Do they like sports, music, or maybe a good clean joke? Once you have picked them, pray about it. The Lord has the authority to judge. So use prayer when deciding if they will be good friends for you.
David Brooksby, 16 Schenectady, New York
It’s hard to choose our friends carefully without judging, but we can do it! They say, “You marry who you date.” Well, this same concept applies to the friends we choose. We are what our friends are. We can ask ourselves, “Is that the kind of person I want to be?” So when choosing friends, choose the people you most want to be like. That doesn’t mean condemning the rest. That way you can choose friends carefully without judging people. (Note: We all want to be like Jesus Christ, so make him your friend!)
Suzanne Jones, 17 Fair Oaks, California
You should choose friends who have the same values and standards as you do because that will directly affect your life. But someone is not a bad person just because he has a fault. I consider myself a basically good person, and I am far from perfect. I figure that people are patient with my faults and I should be patient with theirs. Often, by not judging and by reaching out to someone, we can help them. Sometimes all that people need is a friend.
Shannon Weber, 17 Hemet, California
I’ve always tried to remember Genesis 1:27, [Gen. 1:27] which states that we’re made in our Heavenly Father’s image and likeness—all of us. Our Father doesn’t judge us by how we look or by our accent or grammar. He only judges us by our actions. So we should look at other people the way Heavenly Father looks at us. Keep an open mind about other people. They might just become your best friends! Of course, if a person’s actions are corrupt, and if that person doesn’t think highly of you, then you know that person really isn’t your friend.
Raymond McKechnie, 13 Palmer, Alaska
The best way to choose friends is by looking for the positive. Making the right friends becomes much easier because then you only have to worry about looking for the good in people and not judging the bad.
Marci Andrus, 15 St. George, Utah
I think that you should choose your friends carefully, but I also think that you should be friendly to everyone.
April Hess, 12 Burbank, California
If someone you have never met wants to be your friend, you shouldn’t hesitate. The more friends you have the better off you are. But if that person asks you to do something you know is wrong, you will know that person isn’t really your friend.
Jeremy J. Holmes, 15 Roosevelt, Utah