My parents don't want me to hang out with some friends, what should I do?

My parents don't want me to hang out with some friends, what should I do?

Dear Fr. Joe: My parents are trying to stop me from hanging out with some friends from school. I think they are judging them without getting to know them. What do you think?

I like this question and I’m glad you asked. The first thing we have to look at is the issue of obedience. Obedience is not a word that is used often in our day and age, but it is an important one. As young people living at home, it is important to learn the value of obedience. Obedience is an acceptance on our part that there are people out there who know more than us. It is nothing less than our call as Christians.

As an adult who is a priest, I work hard at obedience. It is a skill that we all need to succeed in life and grow in love of Jesus and his bride, the church. Remember, it is Jesus’ obedience that saved us.

So, why would your parents ask you to be obedient on this matter? Probably because your mother and/or father are judging. And that is not a bad thing. For example, I love Little Debbie® Snack Cakes. I mean, I REALLY love Little Debbie® Snack Cakes. If there was a religion based around Little Debbie® Snack Cakes, then I would ... well, you get the point. Now, if I were to eat them as often as I wanted, the results would eventually be disastrous. I would probably end up the size of a small Eastern European country right before I died of a massive heart attack.

How do I know this? Have I ever gone through a period in my life where I ate nothing but Little Debbie® Snack Cakes, resulting in significant weight gain and eventual death? No, I am making a judgment – a judgment based on doctors’ wisdom and other people’s life experiences.

You see where I am going? Your parents have a significant amount of life experience. They have seen things. They know what to look for.

Another example: Do you have younger brothers and/or sisters? Think of what you know that they don’t. Remember how they used to want to touch the cool-looking, glowing red thing in the kitchen? You saw a cool-looking, glowing red thing there, too, but you knew that touching it would result in a burnt hand. So, you kept your little brother or sister from it – even if it made them angry.

In the same way, your parents are trying to protect you and they are willing to risk losing your affection to save you from unnecessary pain. This is what heroes do and this is what makes parents so wonderful.

Now, you might be saying, “Jesus said never to judge.” No, Jesus said not to judge or we risk being judged. But being judged is not a bad thing if we live our lives in accordance with God’s commands. Also, Jesus gave commands to His followers to do things that were very judgmental. He told his disciples to leave towns that reject the message and “shake the dust off their sandals as a testament against them.” There are Scripture passages where Jesus called people a “brood of vipers” and “white-washed coffins; pristine and white on the outside and filled with death and decay within.” How does that jibe with “judge not, lest you be judged?”

Jesus was talking about motivation. We cannot judge other people’s motives. These people you want to hang out with may have great motivation, but live it out in a way that is destructive.

Check this last point out. It’s a little tough, but I think it is valuable, too. When I was in Israel, I heard an incredible comment on Christian art. You know the picture where Jesus is a shepherd and He is carrying a small lamb on His shoulders? I used to look at that picture and think it was sweet.

Then I found out the truth.

If you ever see a shepherd carrying a small lamb like that (and to be honest, odds are you won’t unless you go to MSU), it’s because the lamb’s leg is broken. Sounds reasonable, right?

Well, here is the thing – the lamb’s leg is broken because the shepherd broke it. I found out that if a shepherd has a sheep that will not stay with the group and tends to wander around, he’ll break its leg and carry it around until the leg heals. This is for two reasons. First because “a sheep that wanders is a sheep that is dead.” Sheep are so helpless they won’t last a day away from the protection of the shepherd or the safety of the group. Second, once that lamb’s leg heals, it will not leave the shepherd’s side – ever.

It’s a tough story, gruesome even, but an important point. Hanging out with the wrong people will hurt us and bring us pain. It might be great at first, but it will ultimately destroy us and hurt people around us. Like the shepherd, our parents may have to make some tough choices, even forbidding us to hang out with certain people, but they are doing this to save us – to keep us from pain that is not necessary.

I want to wrap this up with a story from my own experience. I am blessed with two really great friends. These two guys are the best friends I’ve got – they bring out the best in me and I try to bring out the best in them. They understand my schedule; they walk with me when things are tough; and, let me walk with them when they need it. That’s good stuff, but so is this – they give me the business when I need that as well. “How’s your prayer life, Joe?” “Joe, you really shouldn’t have done that.” “You need to slow down.” Comments like this are uncomfortable for them to say and hard for me to receive, but they care more about my salvation and betterment as a human than their own comfort. This is a strength to me, and I rely on them heavily.

But this is what friends do. They don’t just hang out with us and support everything we do. They question us when we need it and challenge us to do and be better.

The ultimate challenge? Real friends risk losing our friendship in order to save our souls or help us to improve as human beings. THAT is the good stuff. That is what a friend does.

Just like Jesus did.

Enjoy another day in God’s presence!