What type of friend are you? I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot about being a friend over the years. I’ve enjoyed some of my greatest friendships as an adult. This topic is so close to my heart I wrote an entire novel based on the theme of friendship, only the bond in my book wasn’t a healthy one.
You can learn a lot about how healthy a relationship is from how you feel two minutes after someone says goodbye. I have two teenagers and a preteen. The topic of friendship isn’t one I’ve brushed over or skidded across lightly. It matters—who we choose as friends. And sometimes it takes time to discern whether someone is indeed that—a good and loyal friend. Here are a few questions that might help with the discernment process. After they’ve said goodbye, do I feel depleted? Exhausted? Like I’ve been manipulated or as though I’m always feeling forced to go along with them? Do I feel like the relationship is uneven in regards to give and take? Am I reflective or peaceful? Am I excited to hang out with them again? Am I too anxious to please them or make them happy? Have they invested in me in equal measure as I have them? Am I making all the efforts? Are they dangerous in any way? Have they been leading me down a path I don’t like? Am I changing into someone I don’t like because of them? Do I feel in control around them or controlled by them? Are they prone to drama, gossip, or bullying others? Do I like who I am when I’m around them? Do I feel a general sense of discomfort when I’m around them? Am I good for them?
Answering these questions may help pinpoint why a relationship has felt off for quite some time. It’s also important to be aware that sometimes we contribute to the uneasy feelings in a relationship. For example, if we are too eager to please that isn’t necessarily about the other person, but something we can work on.
As I stated, this topic is near and dear to me. In No Woman No Cry, Bob Marley sings how he’s had good friends, and how he’s lost good friends along the way. That part of the song always gets me. In the time I have left here on earth I want to be a good friend. I’ve come to understand that it’s okay to create distance from those who don’t treat me the way I deserve to be treated. It’s healthy, in fact. I’m teaching my kids the same—to surround themselves with people who make them feel valued and loved. People who lift them up, encourage them, and bring out their best qualities—not their worst.
Right now I have several dear friends going through some hardships with their teenagers. I’ve been thinking a lot about them and hoping their kids have even just one thoughtful person come into their lives, to bestow kindness. And encouragement during this trying season. I know certain individuals have made a tremendous difference in my life at crucial times.
When I think about the kind of friend I want to be I think about Lester in the non-fiction book I just read (posted about it last week—The Sun Does Shine). Lester showed up for every possible visit to be with Anthony Ray Hinton, an innocent man trying to stay hopeful for thirty years while he sat on death row. Lester encouraged in the truest sense of the word. I cried as I read the following. Ray’s dedicated lawyer had tried almost everything to get him out. There was really only one more shot at freeing him and it came with a great risk. Through years of hardship, Ray found ways to remain hopeful and positive, but this particular day he was struggling. Lester tells him, “We’re not kids anymore, Ray, and we’re not afraid. We’re going to face whatever happens. We’re going to face it, and we’re going to fight if we have to fight . . . We’re still walking home, Ray. We’re still just walking home together.”
A good friend, a true friend will be there to remind you, when you need it most that you’re walking home . . . together. That you’re not alone.