That's What Friends Are For
So far in this life of mine, it feels like I’ve had to navigate new relationships with more frequency than I'm comfortable. Of course that’s “just a part of life,” but for an at-times intensely introverted person like myself, it can be taxing. As a kid, I moved from Freeport to Eleuthera (not a particularly fond time for me). I switched schools in high school (another challenging time). I went off to college and worked in Nassau. After a couple years, I moved to Oklahoma.
And now after seven years, I’m moving back home.
Along the way, I experienced different kinds of relationships: casual, professional, familial, romantic, and specifically close friendships. Considering how taxing it can be to cultivate new relationships, I’ve been considering what it actually means to have friends and to be a friend. And sure, I get that we have friends on varying levels of closeness. But when I say "friend" in this post, I really mean a person with whom you both can fully be yourselves with no pretense or judgment. So over time, I started putting language to what I thought friendship might entail. However, nothing was quite like this tweet that I woke up to a few days ago:
Listen. That ENTIRE DAY, I thought about this tweet. (Her entire tweet thread is worth the read.) She articulated so much of what I feel and wish to live out. I think there are two essential things in this tweet that resonated with me.
1. It's essential that we communicate how we want to be cared for.
Somehow, we have expectations of how we specifically want to be cared for without ever sharing an iota with the other person. This may stem from the fear of awkwardness or seeming “needy." The biggest reservation I notice, though, is in the telepathic argument—that if someone is really a friend, "she/he should just know." But, expressing how we want to be cared for can simply sound (in our own voice) like this:
- “Hey, since you and I are cool, if I’m having a rough time, sometimes I just need someone to listen and not necessarily try to fix anything.” . . . or
- “Sometimes I’m reserved when I get stressed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to be alone. Reach out if you notice I’m shutting the world out.” . . . or
- "Hey, I'm just sharing my personal experience. So, it's inconsiderate when you say things that seem to belittle it." . . . or
- “Hey, we're friends. So I'd appreciate if you didn't say things like 'Cold pizza is so good!' It's offensive." (FACTS.)
This isn't being "soft" or overly emotional (as boys are often taught). It's simply about communication. If our friendships are healthy and true, we can accept and attempt to deliver on such requests for care from one another.
2. It's essential that we humbly serve our friends.
When a person shares with us “This is how you can care for me,” it should move us to humility. We do not dictate what, how, and when they should feel. They do. And their request(s) may be inconvenient to us. That proactive phone call or text to check-in. That extra time you didn’t account for to sit and listen to rants. That last minute, but urgent favour being asked. Or sometimes we'll be humbled through asking this simple question: “How are you? No, but really. How are you doing?” Receiving an authentic response may give us a glimpse into their lives that they may have never shared before. If our friendships are healthy and true, we can charitably give a moment outside of ourselves for the sake of love.
I still have some amazing close friends. We talk almost every week. I used to be great friends with some people. Now, we only trade messages periodically. Some friendships essentially no longer exist because we grew apart. I used to beat myself up about that. However, I’ve learned that some friendships only last for particular seasons. Others may adapt to changing seasons. Some relationships require appropriate emotional boundaries. And at some point, we have to make peace with all of those things. That’s just life. I still can’t help, but wonder, though, “If I knew then what I know now, what would my friendships look like?” Regardless, my biggest lesson learned is whatever season my friendships are in, I need to be salt and light just as much as I expect to taste and see.
I don't have this all figured out.
A lot of days, past and present, I wish I was a better friend.
But, the beautiful thing is that there’s no time like the morrow.
grace + peace