Worms…that’s how I met my best friend in the 2nd grade. I was a bit of a tomboy in those days & in my little elementary school mind, the best way to get a friend was to make her laugh and the most logical way to do that was to chase her around the playground with the biggest worm I could find. I had a great time. She did not. She cried – I apologized. We were inseparable for a number of years after that.
After elementary school, friendship gets decidedly more complicated. Making friends tends to happen organically to a certain extent, but you reach a threshold at which making them isn’t the issue as much as deciding which ones to keep around after you’ve built a relationship. It’s like fishing, you catch a fish and you look at it, like really look at it and you’re like, “is this a good fish? No, I don’t like the way it’s giving me the side-eye and it looks like it has an attitude and would talk about my mamma. I don’t need that in my life. #PositiveVibesOnly.” So you throw it back in the water. I’ve never gone, but I’m pretty sure that’s how fishing works.
Wow, fish and worms…this got weird. Where were we now? Oh, friendship! I have a point… promise….
In many ways, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much better at making friends than I was in grade school. I’ve simply traded worm chases for clumsy small talk and corny jokes, but I have a few people who like me, so I guess it’s worked somewhat. I’ve come to really understand the need to curate who the people are that get to stay in the boat with me and be ok with releasing some back to their natural habitat. The ladies I’ve kept by my side are amazing and they happen to share one important quality that is paramount to weather or not this whole friendship thing is going to work:
They care more about my well-being than my feelings.
Now, that is not to say that they get a kick out of stomping all over my feelings in whatever manner they choose. However, I value the women in my life who will tell me I was wrong when I don’t want to hear it. Who will let me know I’m going down the wrong path. The people who will help me see when I’m putting hope in the wrong people and looking for happiness in the wrong places. They will tell me if I need to try harder, do better, give more or walk away. They call me out when I’m being extra or doing the most. They tell me when I totally suck at something, or when my breath stinks or if my hair looks jacked. And the key is…they do it all in love.
That is the most important element in all of this, the love of Christ is always in play. Loving your neighbor as yourself does not take a break for honesty, they should exist simultaneously. If they only criticize but never encourage – that is not love. If they tell your business in front of others – that’s not love. If they only give their opinion without regard to what’s actually best for you or they are mean-spirited about the issue in the name of honesty – you don’t need that in your life. Call them a fish and walk away. Quickly. Mostly because they will be all, “What? Did you just call me a fish? What does that even mean?” And if you try to explain it will just get weird so just leave fast…don’t look back cuz you know… the awkwardness….
I feel like there’s this myth floating around in popular culture that a true friend is someone who will support you in everything you do no matter what. I contend that anyone who supports you in dysfunction is more harmful to you than any enemy. Those above mentioned things all sound super negative, but why would you invest in someone who knowingly lets you move around in this world in a way that puts you at a deficit?
This quality likely won’t extend to all of your friendships. There are probably some folks in your life you like just fine, but it might not be that kind of relationship, and that’s fine, too. Really, if you find a couple of people who will lovingly tell you all about yourself when it needs to be done instead of keeping silent because they might make you mad & vice versa, you have found gems. And when they make you mad – because they will – my suggestion is to reflect, assess, reconcile and keep it moving. Don’t let them go simply because you got offended that they love you enough to tell you the truth. The more you work through it, the stronger your relationship will be and the better it will make you both in the long run.