If you are graduating soon, good for you! Graduation represents finishing . . . something most folks find hard to do. To broaden the words of the great apostle Paul, you have "finished the course." I, among many others, am proud of you. I congratulate you. Your IQ and your GPA do not interest me nearly as much as your gumption to hang in there to the end. You have my respect.
Normally, we tend to give great recognition to those graduates who have finished their university work, and give even louder adulation to those who have earned their master's or doctoral degrees. Certainly, these are noteworthy accomplishments and deserving of everyone's applause. But I would like to address the graduates who will return to more school work next fall—ugh! I realize you would rather not think about that with a full summer stretching out in front of you, but come September, the ol' school bell will ring. So let me encourage you and, hopefully, dare you to make some changes as you accept the challenge of further academic pursuits. I will start with a simple statement.
What you become will be directly linked to three factors:
- The decisions you make
- The material you read
- The friends you choose
I have observed that things such as success, fulfillment, happiness, and contentment don't just happen. They accompany those who make wise decisions, read the right material, and choose the best friends. It is that third one I want to address. Think with me about friends and friendships.
Solomon's book of wisdom, the Proverbs, has several things to say about the characteristics of wholesome friendship—four, to be exact.
1. A friend consistently cares about you.
A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.
Unlike those who come and go, depending on fickle moods and whether or not you have money or are becoming popular, true friends keep seeking your highest good. They "love at all times."
2. A friend is someone you can talk with openly, honestly, and confidentially.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
So a man's counsel is sweet to his friend.
There is something especially delicious about the "counsel" that comes from and is shared with one's friend. Even his or her criticisms can be trusted.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted.
(Proverbs 27:6, NIV)
Furthermore, when you talk with a friend, secrets remain secrets. No one—no one—hears about them later on.
3. Friends are loyal.
Do not forsake your own friend or your father's friend.
When you hit bottom, friends are there. When you win, they celebrate. When you lose, they encourage. When you are troubled or angry or disappointed, they listen without preaching. Even when you are embarrassed about something you did that was dumb, friends don't make you feel like a jerk. As Erma Bombeck, the late humorist, once said, when she gave herself a perm that left her looking too frizzy, her friend sat with her in the bathroom until it grew out.
4. Friends make each other better people.
Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
As in water face reflects face,
So the heart of man reflects man.
What vivid images . . . iron and water. Both beautifully illustrate how another person "sharpens" us and "reflects" us. With a friend, we receive both. Without a friend, we get neither.
So then, in light of all the above, here are several "graduation tips" that will help your future years in school be better than those now in the past. Assuming you are going to choose several new friends—
First, choose one teacher at school to admire.
You will have many teachers. You will be drawn to several. Select one you admire to be your mentor. Study, learn from, and spend time with him or her. You'll never be sorry. A great teacher who becomes a mentor is one of life's best gifts.
Second, choose a couple of leaders at church to model.
Your spiritual growth will be accelerated, and your life will be deepened. Best of all, you will come to realize that the Christian life is attainable . . . even by imperfect people.
Third, choose a few friends at school to have fun with.
Go places, do stuff, enjoy life, and try fun things with your school friends. Relax and laugh a lot. You can't beat fun.
Fourth, choose to honor your parents.
You're growing up. That means you need your parents less. And in a few more years, you'll need them even less. But you will discover that a "need relationship" will be slowly replaced by a growing sense of respect. Let it happen. Don't fight it. Nobody is in your corner more than your mom and dad. Give them the honor they have earned.
Fifth, choose Christ to be your Lord.
There IS no friend like Jesus. Take Him with you . . . deliberately. Seek His will and read His Word . . . regularly. Proverbs 18:24 tells us of "a friend who sticks closer than a brother." That's Jesus.
Those are my "tips" for both honored graduates and continuing students. Remember: success, fulfillment, happiness, and contentment will be directly linked to wise decisions, healthy reading material, and a tight circle of good friends. Choose only the best friends, since you are inviting them to join the inner, crucial core of your life. You'll never be sorry.