Some converts make huge changes in their lives when they join the church. They give up alcohol, tobacco, and various other parts of their lives they now consider inappropriate. Their moral standards have changed dramatically. This can lead to problems with old friends who haven’t made the same changes. Old friends still want their friend to come along to the bar or to participate in activities the new convert isn’t comfortable with.
There are several points to consider when making a choice about how to handle the problems you face with old friends from your old life. The first is that you don’t want to slide back into your foremer lifestyle. It takes time for new ways of living to become a habit. If you drank a great deal before your conversion, you may find it difficult to be around alcohol for a time without being tempted. Many converts find it better to stay away from places where alcohol is served until there is no longer any temptation at all. Naturally it isn’t possible, in most cases, to completely avoid being in a place where drinking occurs, since many nice restaurants serve alcohol, but try to avoid places where alcohol is the main purpose. The same is true of anything else you no longer do because you have a testimony.
We’re asked to avoid the appearance of evil, so being in a bar or at a party where drinking is the main purpose can cause people to presume you’re participating. The same is true of other types of activities where the main purpose or a common activity is something you no longer do. Evaluate the atmosphere and purpose of any place you’re invited to be with your old friends. It’s hard to feel the spirit when you’re in a place where sin is occurring, and you’ll not want to have the spirit absent as you’re learning to live the gospel. There is a difference between an adult party where alcohol is served and a drinking party. You’ll soon be able to know if you’re going to be comfortable at the event.
Many converts have to decide if the friends they currently have are the friends they still want to have. We don’t ask converts to spend time only with members. However, we do know that it’s easier to live the gospel if the people you are with are also living at a high level, whether or not they are LDS. If your friends live dramatically different lives, such as using illegal drugs when they are with you, you will probably find it safer to find new friends. If your friends have less dramatic lifestyle differences, you need only decide if they respect your new way of life. If they don’t pressure you to return to old habits and can accept the new you, the friendship can most likely continue after a period of adjustment.
Teach the gospel through your actions and through casual conversation instead of intense preaching. When your friends see how wonderful your life is right now, they will soon be comfortable with the person you’ve become.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.