Friends, Zergdigs, Countrymen

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At some point when our kids were yet very small, the term “zergdig” was invented (by Stephen) and became a regular part of our family’s vocabulary. It was developed out of a need for a term to symbolize the middle ground between an acquaintance and a friend.

We each have loads of acquaintances; the “countrymen” in my title. Dictionary.com defines it as, “a state of being acquainted or casually familiar with someone or something.” It’s the wide circle of people we routinely come in contact with.  We may or may not notice if they were to move themselves out of our circles, and it certainly wouldn’t sting if they did.

Then we can consider ourselves blessed if we are able to use a term we reserve for a very specific type of relationship: our “friends”. The term “friend” in our home is used for a person who has our best interest at heart. Friends are patient with us, and kind to us. They are not self-seeking or jealous. They protect our hearts and want what is best for us. A true friendship is a mutually beneficial relationship in which neither party would intentionally ask or temp the other person into doing the wrong or unhealthy thing. These are the kinds of relationships that can turn into healthy marriages. Mistakes will be made in all relationships, of course, but the ultimate goal of these relationships is to encourage each other to be better, do better, and to take care of ourselves and each other.

But what about that middle ground? These are the people we really like or even love, but they don’t have our best interests at heart. They are making unhealthy choices and want us to join them in them. They are seeking their own happiness without regard for ours. These are people we may or may not not be able to cut from our lives. This could be a classmate at school, a person at church, a neighbor… This is a person we probably need to minister to, but also need to guard our hearts and minds against accepting them as a healthy authority or influence in our lives. Their influence is unhealthy, but we love them and often must pour into their lives on some level. These people are “zergdigs”.

Tears often sting our eyes as we discuss the difficulty of watching our zergdigs make bad choices or choose bad attitudes. We discuss how we are not being a true “friend” to them if we allow them to run over us or draw us into their issues. If we are to do the right things by them, we must set up healthy boundaries about what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t and then let that guide our interactions, even if it means telling them they must go until they are ready to get the help they need. We are always there for zergdigs when they are ready, but we are not going to make it easy on them to make bad choices either. That doesn’t help anyone! And let’s not marry these people, please.

Then we pray that we would be true friends rather than zergdigs to everyone God puts into our lives. We are all just a few bad decisions or one unhealthy relationship away from not being a friend to others. Without opening our hearts to the beautiful, life-giving benefit of true, not always pain-free, honest friendships, we are all vulnerable to becoming the person we should be guarding our hearts from.

My kids now come home with the ability to articulate things like, “I totally thought so-and-so was my friend, but now I know they are a zergdig.” I always encourage them to be kind and encourage their zergdigs to do better and be better. However they must protect their hearts from considering it a true friendship lest they end up in their pit with them.

I think I have some great kids who are great (though, admittedly not perfect) friends to others. And now that they are in a hybrid/blended school two days a week I get to hear the neatest things about their character from others. However, my oldest is only 13. None of them have enough independence to have been truly tested quite yet. We are only in the stages of hoping and praying our discussion and preplanning for any potential unhealthy relationships will help them avoid those pitfalls. Ultimately this will be up to them. I do happen to know that if they continue to learn about what healthy relationships look like and can identify when they are beginning to fall into unhealthy ones, they are exponentially more likely avoid some of the dangerous pitfalls many of us have fallen into when we ignorantly accepted bad company into our lives.

Blessings on you and all of your friends, zergdigs, and countrymen.

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