Being in a few social circles as well as active in our Catholic school, we hear often the value of ‘formation’. As a young mother, I remember quite well, when I first heard such a word, and proceeded to ask those around me what exactly does it mean? Aren’t we all raising our children, feeding and clothing them, teaching the Faith and working to keep our sanity the best we can? What is this added dimension I am called to do for my children? What is this ‘formation’?
I am not here to define the term, I am sure every mother or father will have their own understanding of what it means for them and their family. What I do know, and hope to share, is one way to view formation of a pre-teen.
My 12 year old Thinker needed a little instruction after seeing her and hearing her interact with not only her fellow classmate, but a best girlfriend.
Haven’t we all had a friendship that at times we weren’t ourselves in? Haven’t we all had a friend that controlled the conversation, dominated every interaction and overpowered every social situation? These friends tend to have stronger personalities than ours, and at times, these exact friends can lead us on the wrong path, believing all they are saying, simply because they are louder and very influential.
We have warned her about this girlfriend for a while now. We have told her to try and be the positive influence for her and not vice versa, and tonight it was made clear, our Thinker didn’t know what that meant, what should she do, what should she say, how to stand up to her girlfriend. So, we got specific, we gave her ideas to try, how to change the subject of conversation, how to be funny to re-direct or challenge a situation, and a few other things to be the more influential one in this relationship.
Ultimately, we warned her, “It’s work honey. These kinds of friendships that try and change you for who you are, will require a lot of work on your part in order to not allow that change. It’s up to you. If you keep this friendship, which we will support, then you must work at being the good influence on this girl. If you don’t want to work at it, then we understand this as well, and you can make other new girlfriends.”
Don’t we as adults pick and choose our friends? Don’t we decide to cut short people in our lives that are draining, or that we can see are negative influences on us? And if we decide to keep such a friendship, don’t we resolve to be the one who brings charity and compassion in order to influence them? And shouldn’t we teach our children those same lessons, those same techniques? That they can choose their friends. That if they keep some friends, it can require work, to be on guard, to be ready, alert in order to move conversations and actions into proper directions.
I have seen this exact thing in my own life, making friends with other mothers. I had a girlfriend who was absolutely a negative influence on my life, it made me someone different from who I really was. And people noticed. I was grumpy, pessimistic and depressed most days. When my husband finally confronted me on it, I decided that I would try and keep the friendship with this fellow Mom, and try and be the good influence on her. It ended badly as I challenged this fellow Mom to see the good in life, and she wasn’t ready to hear it, or see it, or have a friend that stood up for what was right, good and holy in this life.
But this is the free will we all get to exercise. She wasn’t interested in a different kind of friendship with me, a hopeful one.
Because I see such a similar situation for my 12 year old. She is determined to save the friendship, and we have challenged her to be the leader for her friend, instead of a follower. I will be watching. I hope that this young friend of Thinker will want a new kind of friendship with my daughter. I pray God can give her the strength of character to accept her friend’s free will to walk away, at the same time as her own freedom, in order to choose the good and the right. She can learn a great lesson for her life, to surround herself with like-minded, hopeful and positive influences. She can learn the lesson of leading others as a great work of service, as it truly is, and our Lord demonstrates at the Last Supper. He washes their feet, to show leadership as service, to work for others, changing hearts and minds.
Forming leaders isn’t easy. It isn’t supposed to be. It’s a tough job. It can be lonely, exhausting and never ending. However, I do believe that God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. Thinker is called. As her mother, I can see it and others would follow her. God is molding her into the leader He needs her to be, giving her opportunities to lead. As her parents, we are showing her those opportunities and giving her confidence to act.
Copyright 2013 Sahmatwork