During my freshman year in college my friends introduced me to the wonderful world that is the musical Wicked. Never has there been a set of songs that I connect with in so many different ways at so many different levels. The lines I keep coming back to over and over again, though, are from the song “For Good” (watch the clip here):
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
No one who has paid any attention to human behavior will deny that a person’s friends directly affect the person. In fact, Solomon knew this way back in the 10th century BC when he said, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces” (Proverbs 13:20, The Message). Teenagers rail at their parents about how their friends are not bad influences on them, but there is wisdom to the parents’ opposition to “bad friends.” Parents want their children to have friends who will change them for the better. Ideally, we should want friends who will change us for the better, too.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it always works out. We don’t always get to choose our friends based on their potential impact on us. Sometimes we’re “stuck” with the friends who are willing to accept us. The less mainstream a person is, the less ability a person has to choose his/her friends.
My friends my freshman year of college were all the “outcast” type people. We all never really had a bunch of friends growing up, but we managed to find each other in college and form a tight group of friends. We all had our baggage we brought with us to the friendships; some might say we had more baggage than the average person. Everyone’s baggage kept bumping up against everyone else’s, and at some point some people’s bags got swapped. We learned new bad habits from each other. My friends did not necessarily change me for the better that year. But they did change me for good.
Through the mistakes we made I learned more about myself and how to be a good person than I ever possibly could have if I had different friends. My friends changed me, but then it was up to me to turn that change into either a positive or a negative. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that without those horrible, wonderful friends I would not be the person I am today. And I like who I am.