Father Kelly stresses this old adage that all of us must keep in mind, and especially our youth who are in such a vulnerable time of their lives….You become like the people you associate with.
by Rev. George A. Kelly, The Catholic Youth’s Guide to Life and Love
Eugene Guilbert, a researcher who to find out what teenagers think about certain subjects, once made a survey to learn how youngsters regard companions as an influence in their lives. He discovered what you probably already know—that you often value your friends’ opinions more than you value those of your parents or teachers. What’s more, you know what effect your companions can have on you.
Three out of every four boys Gilbert interviewed told him that companions were the worst influences in their lives. Two girls out of three said the same thing. Of course, if companions can be such a strong evil influence, they can also be a strong influence for good.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
If you stand aside and watch groups of boys and girls as they arrive at a movie theater or some other place, you’ll notice that the members of a particular group dress pretty much alike. Girls in one group wear white bobby socks and two-tone sport shoes with rubber soles. Boys in another crowd wear their hair cut in a certain way, flapping shirts, and the same kind of slacks or dungarees. Clothing is only one way in which teenagers conform.
You and your friends probably do the same things—listen to the same television programs, enjoy the same singers, like the same foods. That conformity is natural. Most adults also choose friends with similar tastes and interests.
My point is that if the interests of your group are good, you will be helped by belonging to it. If the interests are bad, you will be hurt. There’s nothing new about this.
They were saying, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you what you are,” hundreds of years before the invention of bobby socks. The group you join will have much more to do with your future than you probably imagine.
A boy I’ll call Danny moved into a new section of town just before entering high school as a freshman. He got to know a group of youngsters who were interested in having good times and “thrills” and cared little about school work.
Danny had been a good student in grade school, but his new group thought it sissy to waste time on homework. And although he could average eighty without hitting the books too hard, he knew that his pals would call him a grind. So he became perfectly content just to get passing marks.
Soon Danny and his friends began doing things they knew their parents disapproved of—just for the sake of doing them. They sneaked smokes before school every day, drank beer on the sly, went to see movies on the condemned list.
When they were old enough to drive, they borrowed a parent’s car and thought it was smart to see how long they could keep their foot pressed to the floor board on a highway leading into town.
Despite his good mind, Danny barely got by in high school. When he graduated, he only wanted to do what others of his group were doing—get a job, buy a car and live happily ever after. He got a job, and then a car. He had great fun for a few months. Then the thrill wore off. The job became boring and unchallenging.
Now Dan is twenty-three. Classmates who were in other groups have graduated from college and are getting jobs which offer bright futures. Dan sees this and realizes that his future would now be much more promising had he chosen his pals with care.
The most interesting part of the story is that Danny’s younger brother, Eddie, has just entered high school. No parent watches over his son as carefully as Danny does over Eddie. He says he won’t let his brother make the same mistake he did.
Any priest or teacher probably could cite dozens, if not hundreds, of other examples proving that your companions can be good or bad for you. A typical tale: Five boys were close friends throughout their high school days. Each proved to be a good influence for the others. Now all are college graduates and have found careers which will help them serve God and man to the best of their abilities. One is a priest, another a lawyer. Two are scientists and the fifth is an industrial designer. The four laymen are married to wonderful Catholic women, and to see them and their families together is a real inspiration.
If you’d taken each of these men at the age of fourteen and placed them in entirely different groups, they probably wouldn’t have turned out as well.
If you want to take a spectacular shortcut to success in your life, therefore, just remember this principle: associate with boys and girls who’ll help bring out the best—not the worst—of which you’re able.
“Everybody does it!” But you don’t have to! This point is almost equally important. You don’t have to do everything your pals do. We’ve all got our own minds and souls and so can’t excuse ourselves because “everybody’s doing it.”
There may come a time when your buddies may think of doing something you and they shouldn’t do. That’s when you’ll just have to take your stand. You needn’t work up a fever wondering how to get out of the project. It’s easy when you know how and when you try it.
Sally, Anne, Grace and Margaret planned to go to a movie together. One film had been heavily advertised and left no doubt that it was loaded with suggestive sex. It was classed as unsuitable by the Legion of Decency, and Margaret’s mother in particular had told her not to see it.
“Let’s go anyway,” Anne said. “Our mothers will never find out.” Two girls shrugged their shoulders, indicating that they’d go along with her.
Finally Margaret spoke. “I don’t want to lie to my mother. Let’s go somewhere else.” After a long discussion, the group agreed to attend a different theater.
Later, Sally took Margaret aside and said, “I’m glad you spoke up. I was afraid to say anything, but I’d have been ashamed to see that movie.”
Just because some in the crowd don’t object to a suggestion that’s off the beam doesn’t mean they approve of it. They may be too timid and want somebody with more gumption to talk for them. You needn’t be a soap-box orator, and you needn’t deliver a sermon. If you stand up for what you know to be true the others will respect you for it. They may not admit it, but in their hearts they know that you’re right.
The Art of Friendship
Psychologists say that all of us feel a great shock when we discover that some people don’t like us. We may talk about others and let the world know that we’d be happy if they’d leave our lives permanently. There may even be some people we can’t stand the sight of. It’s okay for us to feel that way, we reason, but it feels like a knife in our back when someone feels that way about us.
This desire to be liked is universal. It’s probably one of the strongest we have. And like most innate desires, it can be used to good advantage or to bad.
To good: when we’re willing to sacrifice our own selfish interests to keep the good will of someone we admire.
To bad: when we’ll do anything to avoid having someone angry, or seeming to be angry at us—as when a girl lets a boy paw her because she’s afraid he won’t date her again if she stops him.
There are two ways to be liked. Sometimes we get them confused. The first way is to be liked for something we do or some talent we have. That’s popularity.
The second way is to be liked because of our character and personality. That’s a deeper, more permanent kind of liking. It’s friendship. You can be popular and you can have real friends—people you can count on if you ever get into a serious jam. But you can also be popular without having friends and you can have real friends without being popular.
Let me explain. A boy I’ll call Johnnie had one of the best physiques I’ve ever seen. In high school, he made all the teams he could possibly go out for; in his sophomore year, he was the varsity halfback in football, high-scoring forward in basketball, star hitter in baseball. He was one of the most popular boys in his class. -Wherever he went, four or five others trailed behind, but he wasn’t really close to anyone. He had no friends whom he could really confide his troubles to, or who’d tell their problems to him.
During the second football game of his junior year, Johnnie broke his leg in a scrimmage. The doctor said he’d have to give up sports that year and probably the next year, too. As soon as Johnnie was no longer the star athlete, there was no reason for other boys and girls to flock around him. Before long, he was just another student—and he hadn’t one real friend.
I’m convinced that when Johnnie fractured his leg, he got a break in more ways than one. Some persons spend almost their entire lives without realizing that there’s a difference between popularity and friendship, and that while the first is nice, the second is the real thing. Johnnie learned in one lesson.
It may surprise you, but some beautiful women fall into Johnnie’s category. They’re so attractive and charming that men are too afraid of being outclassed to be at ease in their presence. The girls never get a chance to become truly friendly.
On the other hand, many boys and girls without outstanding talents, who probably couldn’t be elected to a class office, have many real friends who would give them real and sincere help whenever they need it.
I can’t give much help in advising you how to be popular. If you’re good at sports or are an outstanding musician and can entertain at parties, or if you have striking good looks that make the opposite sex anxious to be seen with you, you probably will be popular. However, I can pass along some thoughts to help you make and keep friends.
What are things that make people always look negative on things? Family, politics, the state of the Church are areas that can do that. What do we do about that to keep from being negative?
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