I have some friends that I would like to get away from because of things they do. How can I change friends without offending anyone?
These days, the word friend seems to have many uses. It can refer to someone you just hang out with or have lunch with once in a while. Or it can refer to someone you truly love and trust. This kind of true friend delights in your goodness and your happiness. The Lord himself seems to value this kind of friendship. Through the first half of the Doctrine and Covenants he talks to Joseph Smith as his servant. But then, in sections 84 and 93, he refers to Joseph Smith and others as his friends. (See D&C 84:77 and D&C 93:45.) Even when he has to chastize Joseph and others, he still refers to them as friends.
One of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do is give up being with people you care about because of the things they choose to do with their lives. But from the way you ask your question, it sounds like you realize the necessity of getting away from those types of acquaintances. If you allow your relationships with your so-called friends to drag you down and away from your beliefs, then you are in danger of losing a more valuable relationship—with your Savior, Jesus Christ.
One reader who was having a similar dilemma wrote to us: “Many of my friends were involved in alcohol and drugs. I wasn’t doing these things with them, but I knew I was putting myself in Satan’s path. It was very difficult to change friends, but I made myself very busy with church activities and went out with my friends from church on the weekends. When I did this, I didn’t have time to be in the wrong places with my other friends. I also spent a great deal of time praying and reading the scriptures so I could receive help, guidance, and strength from my Heavenly Father.
“It is still hard for me to hear my old friends say that I must not like them or that they must not be good enough for me, but through fasting and prayer the Lord has blessed me with the strength to handle this. The change was slow and even painful at times, but I don’t feel I have offended anyone, and my life has been richly blessed because of the choice I made.”
She has some good advice on how to change the people you spend time with. Keep busy with good activities and with people who have your same standards. You may feel like you should stick with your old friends in order to help them stay out of trouble. That is simply too dangerous.
It’s hard, and more than a little scary, to have to tell your friends that you don’t like the choices they are making and won’t be going with them anymore. But you must. You can’t be an example for good when you don’t stand up for yourself and your beliefs.
The booklet For the Strength of Youth says, “Your circle of friends will greatly influence your thinking and behavior, just as you will theirs. When you share common values with your friends, you can strengthen and encourage each other” (p. 9).
Make the choice now. Become more involved and busy with good activities and with your family. That’s the type of example your friends need. They need to see that it is possible to make good choices with your life, even if it means that you can’t go to the places they choose anymore.
You will not be left friendless. While you are going through this transition, you can turn to Heavenly Father. He will comfort you and be a friend you can talk to. Of course, your church leaders and parents can help too. You have been given the power to choose what you will do with your life. Don’t go along with others who are making bad choices for you.
I’ve been having the same problem lately. Now I know that I shouldn’t always hang around with them. I decided to broaden my horizons and meet new people who have the same beliefs I do.
Ashlee Jesen, 14 St. Peters, Missouri
Friends can be hard to part with, but if they do things contrary to your beliefs, it is necessary to get away from them. As my bishop once told me, “Some of your friends will influence you to do wicked things more than you can influence them to do good.”
Elder Jeffrey Fogelquist, 19 Illinois Peoria Mission
Start by making friends with people who hold your same high standards. You don’t need to condemn your old friends, but you do need to slowly build better relationships with people who share your ideals.
Kara Ohlsen, 17 Rancho Santa Margarita, California
I’d try to tell them what I believe in and why. You might be an inspiration, and perhaps all they need is a little push in the right direction. If they’re not receptive, then I would try to stay away from them, especially when they are doing what you know is wrong.
Evan C. Bush, 16 Pleasant Grove, Utah
I had the same problem of trying to get away from friends who smoked and used foul language. I soon realized that if I didn’t stop hanging around them, they might influence me to be like them. I got into youth groups, did service projects, and talked to other people. By doing this, people realized how friendly I was and wanted to become friends with me. My old friends seemed mad at me and called me a traitor. I told them what my beliefs were and why I didn’t want to be with them. Surprisingly, they understood and respected me for it. I think you need to understand who you are, and if you stay around these people who do things you don’t like, the only one you’re offending is yourself.
Sarah Sansom, 15 Hilbert, Wisconsin
You need to tell your friends face to face that you can’t accept what they are doing. Be open but concerned about them as people whom you love and care about. The truth may hurt, but that’s what friends are for.
Konrad Moraga, 19 Paso Robles, California