Dad, can I speak to you about something?” asked Tom.
“Let me guess. You want to borrow the car?” his dad joked.
“No, it’s nothing like that. It’s about Jim and something that happened at school today.”
“Isn’t Jim that kid on the track team with you?”
“You two are pretty good friends, aren’t you?”
“Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about. You see, there’s another guy on the team named Eric who got into a fight with Jim after practice. I tried to break it up, but the coach pulled all three of us aside. I told the coach that I was only trying to keep the peace, but then I defended Jim.”
Suddenly Tom was quiet.
“Okay, so what happened next?” prompted his dad.
“I found out later from some other guys on the team that Jim has been bullying Eric for a long time and that today Eric just snapped. They told me about all kinds of rotten things Jim had done when I wasn’t around. Dad, I feel like such a jerk for sticking up for him. I feel like I don’t even know who he is.”
“Well, don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes. Yours was sticking up for someone without knowing all the facts.”
“You can say that again,” said Tom.
“But the real lesson here has more to do with friendship than anything else,” said Tom’s dad.
“Absolutely. It would be easy to walk away. But friends don’t let each other down. You’ve got to tell Jim that you are disappointed in him.”
“I doubt that he’ll care,” mumbled Tom.
“I disagree,” said his dad. “Jim wanted you to see only the good side of him and that’s why you never knew about the bullying. Since he wants your approval, let him know that you expect more from him. If you do that, he’ll come to expect more from himself. And once that happens, he’ll change and be the kind of friend you won’t mind sticking up for.”