A good friend of mine is kind of rowdy and wild. How can I help him change without coming across as self-righteous?
It’s a common problem. A close friend is involved in activities you know are wrong, but he doesn’t want to hear anything about church or “doing the right thing.”
If you are serious about helping your friend change, be prepared to spend valuable time together—but don’t take on the problem alone. You need the help of other friends you can trust.
Instead of telling your rowdy friend what he is doing is bad, show him a better way. If he is getting into trouble on weekends, give him an option. Invite him to Church activities or take him with your other friends to some place where there is no temptation to be self-destructive. Let him see that if he wants to be in your company, he can’t be involved in unwholesome activities.
But while you are spending time with him, remember that it is not a good idea to hang around with his rowdy friends. It is important to be friendly to these individuals, but you can’t afford to attend their parties or other activities. There are few people strong enough to resist peer pressure every time, especially from a group. It is best to stay out of dangerous situations and help your friend stay away too.
Keep in mind that while it is possible for you to have a positive effect on this friend, he could have a negative impact on you. Be realistic about who follows whom. If your friend has a stronger personality, and you often find yourself following him, it may be best to steer clear of him altogether. Remember to be careful and prayerful. Don’t forget that you could be tempted to break your standards. Pray regularly, read your scriptures, get advice from your parents and other trusted adults. Also, evaluate your own life regularly. Is your friend improving, or are you becoming more tolerant of his standards?
If, after all your efforts to be an example have failed to change your friend, the direct approach may be your only alternative. Even though you do not want to be considered self-righteous, it may help to explain to your friend, in a kind and loving manner, that you are concerned about his welfare and future. Tell him you’re worried about the reputation he is getting and that his actions now may ruin his life in the future. Bear your testimony of the true happiness found in the gospel. Most importantly, show this friend that you care.
The Apostle Paul counseled all to “warn them that are unruly” (1 Thes. 5:14) of the possible consequences of unrighteousness.
Don’t give up if he does not appear eager to change. Continue to be his friend, but don’t participate with him in activities that lead you away from what you know is right. Never compromise your values. The best thing you can do for the friend is to live your life as worthily as possible. The chances are good that he will remember your example at some later point in his life. It would be nice if he could look back and see that even though you wouldn’t do the things he wanted you to, you cared about him. Perhaps then your positive influence will make a difference.
Be careful never to lower yourself to fit in with him. By not giving in you are being an example. Sometimes that’s all you can do. But that’s a lot! The Savior’s whole life was an example.
Tara Saline, 16 Andrews, Texas
One of my best friends in high school was very rowdy and wild. He was into all the wrong stuff. I tried encouraging him to come to church and to change his ways, but he didn’t listen to me and his problems multiplied. I didn’t hear from him for a long time. Then one day he came over to my house unexpectedly. He had been in jail and said while he was there he thought, why can’t I be more like Tom and stay out of trouble.
I think the best way we can help people is by being a good example to them and not worrying about being a little self-righteous. Just be yourself.
Elder Tom Turner Texas San Antonio Mission
People go through many stages in life, and we must try to be nice and patient with our friends. None of us is perfect, but our Father in Heaven loves every one of us.
Khamkhoun Emanivong, 15 Merced, California
You bet your life you can help. The best way to do this is to be an example. Teaching by example saves on useless ink and wasted breath. In other words, don’t tell your friend what he should do; show him.
Elder Russ Schroader Canada Calgary Mission
I would try to talk to him, but I probably wouldn’t hang around him any more.
Colin Cheetham, 15 Wellington, New Zealand
Let him know how you feel. When he is getting rowdy and wild, tell him you don’t enjoy being around him when he’s like that. Maybe he’ll think it over and decide he enjoys your company.
Teresa Fullmer, 14 Roseville, California
I would straight out tell him, because if he’s the type of person I think he is, that’s the only way he will listen to what you are saying. Say it nicely, and don’t embarrass him. Just tell him you don’t like what he is doing. There is no way it’s not going to sound self-righteous.
Veronica Smith, 16 Cleveland, Australia
I went through a time in my life when I was like your friend. My friends at church all deserted me because I was a “bad influence.” The problem then was that I didn’t have any peers that were “good influences” on me. I was fortunate that I realized before it was too late, that I wasn’t really happy doing what I was doing.
If your friend lets go of the iron rod, take him by the hand. Lead him. Be an example for him.
Jim Madsen, 25
If she says you sound like her mother, it’s because she’s trying to forget her problems. Don’t take it too personally. Tell her she has people that worry about her. She probably thinks no one in the world cares.
Katrina Finan, 14 Wellington, New Zealand
You should be yourself, live Church principles, act humbly at all times, and choose the right.
Tony Cheetham, 15 Wellington, New Zealand
It is possible to let your friend know that you don’t approve and still keep his trust. Always let him know the decision is his, but also tell him you won’t include yourself in wrong or incorrect behavior. Enlist the Lord’s help in finding the right words and time to discuss his actions.
Mandee Peterson, 19 Rexburg, Idaho
Be a good listener. Never say you don’t like her and think that you are better than she is. Set a good example by taking your friend to Church activities and show her how to have fun the right way.
Jennifer Heiner, 15 Morgan, Utah
You might ask him to a church function. At first he may not enjoy himself, but after a while he may become relaxed and have a good time. Your friend may learn a few easy ways to have fun without being rowdy and wild.
Just don’t expect overnight miracles. All you need to do is plant the seed and nourish it with your example.
Micki Weinrich, 15 Puyallup, Washington