Can I confess something to you? I started writing this blog post and before I knew it, it turned into a piece about women and the workforce, modern marriage, and the culture change of the 21st century. Whew. I guess that was my subconscious telling me I had a lot to say on the matter, and that I cared deeply about it. However, as good as those subjects are, they are not what I really wanted to talk to you about today.
Have you been noticing the growing trend of being too busy to add a single thing to your calendar? Something has happened lately where it seems that there just isn't enough time to fit it all in. There are just too many obligations. Are we saying "yes" to too many things? Is it the surge of social media with picture-perfect profiles that portray celebrities and idols who have it all? Is it because we can put a filter on anything to make it look good on the outside, but we're really just trying to look like we have it all as well? Well, yes. I think it is all of those things. We put a lot on our own shoulders, and it can be overwhelming. Work, kids, church, house cleaning, marriage, and relationships seem to pile up when we look at our to-do lists. Yes, I said lists--plural (anybody else?). Not to mention having a hobby, doing fun things, or having time to relax! Life comes at us very quickly, and before we know it our kids are another year older, our hair has finally grown out like we've been wanting, and months have passed since our last meet up with our besties. Man, what is that about?
So today I thought it would be appropriate to talk about friendship. Particularly on how to be a good friend. With life being just plain crazy, it can be easy for our best friends to get lost in the shuffle. I hate it when days or weeks go by without hearing from my best friends, and I just feel wrong. They are in my life for a reason, and I want to know how they're doing and what they're feeling. Maybe we all just need a little help, or a good refresher at least, on what being a good friend means. I don't want to be the girl who is just consumed with herself, and every time you get around her, all she does is talk about herself without ever asking about you. You know those kind of people, right? Well no one wants to be that person!
I talked to 8 women who I talk to the most and who know my heart, and I asked them two questions:
1.) What are the most important qualities of being a good friend?
2.) What do you find is most difficult about being a good friend at this time in your life?
And the answers were wonderful. I'm hoping that what these incredible women said help you like they helped me. These 8 women are all different ages and all are at different stages in life. Some are single, married with no kids, young mothers, mothers with teenagers, and some with their kids already grown and out of the house. I compiled their answers and came up with a few qualities that everyone agreed on. Then I discuss what they find is most difficult.
Being a Good Friend Means...
1.) Being there. This should be a no-brainer, but it's easy to forget. Life is so much better when you know you have someone on your side and someone who will be there no matter what. One of my ladies said, "It's not about going and doing all the fun things at the end of the day. It's about the person who will be there when you're going through something." It's simple but it's true: a friend who is there is the friend you should keep.
2.) Staying connected through hurt + disagreement. Wow, is this one hard. When a friend hurts your feelings, tells you a hard truth, or you both disagree on something, that doesn't mean you have to stop being friends. Friends fight. It happens. What's important is always making sure you mend it. Swallow your pride (which seems to be the hardest part), say you're sorry or agree to disagree, and make up. Make it good before it gets too big to fix.
3.) Support. Support. Support. This is a biggie. I have a friend who I don't get to see as much as I would like, but it never matters how long we go without seeing each other. We always support each other, encourage each other, and love each other. Supporting a friend is everything. I know I wouldn't want to hang out with someone who doesn't have my back. This also includes loyalty, being trustworthy, steering them toward positive actions, giving guidance, and not putting expectations on them. Supporting someone let's them know that they have a backboard: when they take the shot, they've got something to make sure the ball goes in. Be a backboard.
4.) Be authentic + vulnerable. What's being a friend without being real with each other? No matter how tempting it is to keep things bottled up, hidden, or disguised, it is always better to let it out. God made us to have relationships--we were born for community. Doing it on your own was never part of the plan. So find someone you can trust and let it go. Then turn around and let them do the same to you. Take it from my friend, "It can't be just one-sided--in that case you're just a mentor."
5.) LISTEN. "Being someone who listens to understand instead of someone who listens to respond is a big deal to me." Amen, sister. Don't be that kind of person--the one who listens only to give your thoughts or advice upon advice. Sometimes you just need someone to hear you. Let a friend vent to you every once in a while. A lot of the time just getting it out is very cleansing and it might even give one clarity.
6.) Be an encouragement. This is huge. I can't express enough how important this is. I had a friend once who-let's just say-did me wrong. So we broke up. And then I found a new friend who encouraged me to do well, go after my dreams, be confident, and feel beautiful. And wow, what a change that was! I was NOT used to it, but I realized how necessary it was. Building each other up is biblical, and if Jesus did it, so can I. I'm all about words- they are my love language after all. I let people know I love them by telling them so. How is someone going to know you support them, love them, root for them, admire them, or cherish them unless you tell them? Encouragement is necessary, and it should definitely not be overlooked. Send a text, give a call, write a card...let your friends know you care about them!
With all of this amazing advice, I still was curious about some of the hardest parts of being a friend right now. Below I share them, and maybe a few tips to help you out. Maybe you are going through some of these issues right now with friends. Check out what other women are saying on the matter, and maybe find out that you are not alone!
What's hard about being a good friend...
1.) "Being present in someone else's life while trying to grasp the present in my own life."
-It takes a conscious effort to reach out, and care about someone else. And when we go through tough seasons of our own, it makes it even harder to connect. Friends drift, and relationships take work. "You really feel when someone is not doing their part to stay connected and that's where hurt comes in. So you have to work really hard to stay unoffended, and still be there for your friend who can't be there for you in that season." If you're wondering if your friend can feel you drifting away, they can. Reach out. A prayer, a text, a coffee drop-off at their work--it helps.
2.) Availability. "I can't find time to drop everything and run to go shopping or get a bit to eat".
- This is a common problem with young mothers. And it is completely understandable. If you're a young mom who is friends with another young mom, make a friend date with the kids in tow. If you are friends with a young mom and you don't have kids, try to be understanding. Go over to her house, make a date at a restaurant with a play area, or workout together. She can bring her baby while you both sweat it out. My best friend and I do this. I highly recommend it. If you're a young mom with a friend who doesn't have kids, be understanding of her, too. Do what you can when you can.
3.) Calling them on their crap.
- It is a very hard thing to do, especially when people are more sensitive than others. Here's the thing: if you're a real friend, you just have to have the courage to say something. Say it in love, but you owe it to her to be honest. If you are on the receiving end, just hear them out and try to be understanding. Know that your friend loves you, and she wants the best for you. Sometimes we need a friend who will tell us when we are messing up or could be better than we are being.
-I think this is a problem for everyone! Some friends want to go out every weekend, and some can even take last-minute trips to a big city. That is not a reality for many of us. Try to plan things like a girl's night in, or a trip to Taco Bell! As long as you are together, that is what really matters.
5.) Loving others when they hurt you.
- Abandonment, rejection, slander--these are all terrible things that happen in life and relationships. Honestly, I don't see how people get through this without Jesus. Sometimes, people just mess up. That is what grace is for. But other times, people just lose your trust by being mean, nasty, or not good for you. Know the difference. Know when to cut them off, and when to pray through it and make it work.
- You have to make your friendship a priority if it really means that much to you. One of my ladies has FaceTime dates with her bestie every week, or a few times a month. Send them a care package, plan a trip to see them or meet in the middle! Just stay connected.
I hope this helps you. I hope you read this and feel empowered, loved, and understood. Know that you are not alone, and women all over understand what you're going through. Drop a comment and we can talk!
And mad, mad love for my incredible lady friends. Thank you to:
Suzie Morris, Catherine Ames, Ruth Imhoff, Amber Webb, Peyton Riley, Grace Hogarty, Chandra Davis, Olivia Cook, and Rachel Coleman.
I love you with my whole heart.