Sunday, January 31, 2016

Be a REAL Friend

In my life I've had several friendships go the way of the audio cassette and the dodo bird. An overarching theme is "friends" who were only interested in being friends in the loose sense of the word. They wanted to be friends in that friendship consisted of hanging out without any type of emotional connection or any real meaning. Deep topics were off limits and forbidden. Emotions were frowned upon. In other words, they wanted to be friends in the Summer-Sales-Tools kind of way.

The issue with this is how unfulfilling, how shallow, how unstable this type of friendship is. Friendship for me has been at times the only thing that has kept me going amongst the maelstroms of life. How can I have a friendship with someone who only wants to be there for the fun times and not the mundane, the difficult, the sad, the frustrating, etc?

I've been pondering a lot on this topic recently. I've come up with beatitudes (Thanks Gordon B. Hinckley) of what it means to be a REAL friend as opposed to superficial one:

Be Interested.
There's the misconception out there that you have to share all the same interests and beliefs with another in order to be their friend; not true. We are all individuals with our own interests and identities. If we all liked the same things and thought the same way, life would be really vanilla. Be willing to learn about one another's interests. Ask about them. Be excited about them.

Be Aware.
This is a big one. More often than not we become so self-absorbed in our own lives, we don't realize that there's others around us going through their own storms. We don't realize that we could be the answer or relief that another is looking for simply because we're not paying attention.

Be Supportive.
Real friends don't have to agree with each other's choices or decisions. It's not our job to pass judgement. It's our job to simply love and let them know that you're there for them unconditionally. This can translate to going to a Broadway musical even though you hate show tunes, attending a football game though you hate sports, or something a bit more complicated like supporting them in their wedding even if you can't tolerate whom they've chosen as a spouse.

Be a Safe Place.
Real friends should be able to be completely vulnerable, completely emotionally naked with each other. Fears, doubts, insecurities, secrets should be able to be expressed without judgement, without fear of others hearing about it.

Be Spontaneous.
Spontaneity doesn't have to mean a last minute road trip to Vegas. Being spontaneous could be going for milkshakes randomly on a week day or having a Lord of the Rings marathon on a Saturday. Spontaneity means stopping to smell the roses; it means enjoying life, no matter what you're doing but whom you're doing it with.

Be Thoughtful.
Friendship is a two-way street. One friend can't continuously give while the other continuously recieves. Being thoughtful entails saying your "please" and "thank you's". Being thoughtful entails wishing a friend well before a big test, eating ice cream and cookie dough together after a particularly difficult day. Being thoughtful is thinking of what you would do for yourself in a situation, and doing that for your friend.

Be Present.
Nothing irritates a parent more than trying to speak to their child and have their child be glued to a phone screen not really paying attention; the same translates to friendship. Unplug while you're spending time with someone. Besides being rude, it's extremely invalidating to feel like one's company isn't enough or appreciated. When a friend makes time in their day for you, you should to the same.

Be Loving.
Love is complicated topic no matter if it's platonic or romanticized. Really loving someone means that it is unconditional and not based off if you like them one particular day or not. It's caring so deeply for someone that you want what's best for them, regardless if it's something that they want you to do or not. And sometimes that means doing what's best for a friend out of love even when it can make them really upset with you. It doesn't always make you popular, but in the eternal scheme of things they will thank you.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13


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