Lessons in Friendship
I just wrote Happy Birthday cards to two of my closest friends. They both turn 44 this week. I have been saying Happy Birthday to them for 30 years. That is a long time. We have been through so much together including school, cheerleading, break ups, marriage, child birth, divorce, careers, health issues….the list could go on and on. I decided that the best topic that I could pick this week in honor of them is friendship. That word is both complicated and wonderful. I keep telling my children that quality of friendship is so much more important than quantity. Quarters are better than pennies in my book!
I have learned a lot about friendship over the past 43 years. Friendships evolve and sometimes grow closer together. Sometimes friendships change for the better and sometimes they change for the worse. I have seen myself grow closer with my friends and I have seen myself grow apart. Sometimes I will have lost touch with someone, and they come back into my life. Friendship is a very interesting topic filled with a lot of learning and growing.
I noticed that friendships change in regards to what phase of life I am in. When I was super busy in graduate school and working, I remember not seeing a lot of my friends and I also remember making new friends at school. I have also made great friends at every job I have had over the years.
We are always growing and changing and making new friends. You know that song “make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.” This song rings so true to me. I have friends that I have been close to for 30 years and I have friends that I have made this year.
One of my closest friends is a friend I went to nursery school with. When we saw each other at graduate school we remembered each other. How crazy is that? We came back together and became very good friends. Some people are just meant to be in your life! Are they meant for a reason, a season or for a lifetime? This is a question I will sometimes ask myself about my friends. Especially those that have already come and gone in my life.
I have amazing friends I have made through my children that go back to mom’s club when Max was a baby. I made wonderful friends on the playground at my children’s elementary school. You just never know where you can make a good friend. I met one of my very best friends on the school bus. I tell my children (who hate the bus) this story all the time.
I have also said goodbye to friends. It’s a mourning process and I have gotten better at it through the years. Friends have moved away (you can still stay in contact and visit of course but it’s not the same). Friends have drifted away for various reasons. Friends have even betrayed me. You find out in life who your real friends are that is for sure.
I have seen friends drop other friends for various reasons and it can be heartbreaking to experience and to watch it happen. I will talk more about this in my lessons. It is not easy to hear this, but it is a blessing. Hopefully you have had some time to let that sink in since this friend has left your life.
I have had to teach myself a lot about friendship and I have had to teach my children a lot about friendship. I have learned a lot about being a good friend and I am always still learning and growing. I try to learn something new every day. Yesterday I learned that the power of our word choice changes our state of how we feel. What will I learn today? Let’s talk about friendship lessons:
- Friends lift each other up. Friends want the best for each other. I want us all to succeed. This isn’t a competition. We are in this together. I am cheering for you and I am cheering for your family too. There is room in this world for us all to do well. I’m cheering for all of us.
- You learn who your real friends are. If a friend has dropped you than it is truly their loss. You deserve to be surrounded by people who appreciate you for who you are. People who make you feel good about yourself. We shouldn’t try to make someone be our friend. You know who your friends are. They show up, and they care, and they love you.
- Friends care about each other and their family. I care about my friends and I care about their spouse and their children. They can trust that if their children are with me that I will treat them as my own.
- A good friend will make you feel like a better person. I find myself smiling and laughing and having a great time with my good friends. I find that I appreciate my friends and their great qualities, and they appreciate me. They make me feel good. I feel like a better version of myself with good friends. If my friend is having a hard time, I want to help them feel better. I want us to leave each other happy and feeling better. This doesn’t mean that we never have serious or sad things to discuss. If we have something going on that has us down in the dumps, lets talk about it and help make it better. If you don’t want to make it better, I am here for you to vent to. As someone who cares, eventually I am going to want to see your situation get better. The bottom line is that a good friend will tell you what they like about you. They will tell you your strengths. I know and appreciate both your strengths and your weaknesses.
- Good friends don’t care what your house looks like. I am coming over to see you not your house. First of all, a messy house is a lived in house. Do you have a spouse? Do you have children? Do you have pets? If anyone knows how hard it is to keep your house clean it is me. Trust me, I try very hard to keep a clean house. You don’t ever have to apologize for a mess to me. I promise you that I don’t care. I am coming over because I want to spend time with you. Not with your clean house. I want you to spend time with your children on the floor playing. I want you to play monopoly as a family instead of cleaning. I appreciate you for who you are clean house or not. I don’t expect the red carpet when I come over. I expect to step over the toys that your children left on the floor.
- Good friends don’t care what you are wearing or if you are wearing make up. When my friend arrived at book club in her comfy pajamas I smiled. I don’t care what you are wearing. I care about your heart and your kindness and your friendship. I don’t care what outfit you chose or if you decided to put on make up today. I don’t care if you spilled coffee all over your shirt (I do this regularly). I probably feel more comfortable if you aren’t dressed up but if you want to go for it.
- A good friend will help you. If you have a problem, they will help you solve it. If you need to vent, they will let you vent. If you want to know the name of a good plumber, they have it for you. This doesn’t mean they will babysit for you all the time but if you need them, I bet they will be there for you. We don’t want to take advantage of our friends either. Lillie would move into her friend’s houses if I let her, but you can’t overstay your welcome either.
- A good friend has realistic expectations for you. A good friend doesn’t demand things of you. We know what each others lives look like. You know that I have a husband, three kids and three pets. I am really trying. I can’t go to everything. I can’t always respond to a text, email or call right away, but I care, and I am doing my best. I understand that you and I both need down time. I understand if you don’t come to a meeting. I know how much we all run around. I know that sometimes you need to sit on the couch in your pajamas. I know that a child might get sick and you may need to cancel on me. I know that you will answer my text when you have time. We have to be realistic. I want you to ask me and invite me. I appreciate it. It doesn’t mean I can always come. I want to ask you and invite you, that doesn’t mean you can always come, and it doesn’t mean you always want to. I invited my friend to an event the other day and she said “no thank you.” No reason needed she just doesn’t want to come.
- A good friend is saying good things behind your back. I found out about a couple people who tend to talk behind my back. Not good things. I have a feeling of why these two particular people do this, but I don’t actually know unless they tell me. I don’t want to assume anything. I have told myself that they are not worth my time or energy. They are two people that I don’t consider friends of mine. I will spend my time on the people who I care about and who care about me. I will tell you that if you are talking about me, it tends to get back to me. Things get out! If I am talking about a good friend, I bet I am saying something good about you. I am not perfect, and I am sure I have upset my friends. If I am talking about you to someone else, it is because I care or because something needs to be fixed. It is not malicious. If I do something to upset you I hope you will talk to me. If you do something to upset me, I will talk to you about it.
- Model what you want to see from others. This goes for everything. This goes for in a marriage too. This goes for in our employment too. This lesson applies to every relationship even between a parent and a child. My kids sound just like me when they yell at each other. I try to model to others what I expect from them. To be kind, fair, loyal, responsible, fair, reasonable….I don’t always succeed every day but I never stop trying.
- You can disagree with a good friend and still be friends. I don’t have to have the same political, religious, or medical beliefs as you to be friends with you. I respect that we have differences. I like to hear your point of view and I want to hear what you have to say. I want you to let it all hang out. I don’t want you to censor yourself with me. I love having friends with similar beliefs as me, but this is not a requirement by any means. I just had a very intelligent calm political conversation with a good friend. We didn’t agree with each other but I wanted to hear her point of view. I would say that this lesson is one of my greatest lessons as a friend. I learned that I have opinions and that I can share them if they are asked of me. I don’t need to share my point of view if it is not asked of me and my friend doesn’t have to agree with me. All great lessons for me over the years.
- Listen to red flags. There have been times I have been friends with people and the red flags have been loud and clear. I could give you a list. I will tell you that if someone isn’t kind to my child or if their child isn’t kind to my child, I need to run away fast. This is a lesson I had to learn. I’m not saying that the first strike you are out, but you understand what I am saying. There have been times my friends have introduced me to people who have become good friends and there have been times I have been introduced to people and I know that we won’t be friends. There is an internal instinct that I cannot turn off. First impressions aren’t always right but sometimes they are! When I was introduced to a friend my first day of mom’s club when Max was a baby, I knew in my heart that we would be very good friends. I can’t explain it, but I knew. When I walked into a graduate classroom, I knew that I needed to sit next to someone (gravitational pull) and we became good friends. When I met my husband, I knew that he was the one for me. Sometimes we just know and sometimes it is good and wonderful feelings and sometimes your instincts will be telling you that this is not a friend for you. We need to listen to ourselves.
- Friendship takes work. Any relationship takes time and energy. There are plenty of people that I don’t see for a while and we pick up right where we left off the last time. There have probably been some texts here and there between the times we saw each other. I know that we all get busy. I am so understanding of that. I hope you are understanding of me being busy too. The times we do have coffee, dinner, lunch, manicures, walks, texts, it is all time that we are putting into our friendship.
- Just be yourself. Be the real you. If I can be my real authentic self with you, then you are a good friend. I think that this is a lesson we learn when we are younger. Once we are in our 40’s we tend to let ourselves hang out. We are who we are, and we own it. It takes time to get there. I want you to know that I want you to be your real self with me. I want you to cry when you are sad. I want you to scream if you need to when you are angry. I want you to beam with pride when you want to tell me something good going on. I want to hear it all. I want you to be you. I want to be me. Let it all hang out!
What do I want my children to know about friendship? I want them to be a good friend and to have good friends. I want them to be able to be themselves with their friends. I want them to have confidence in themselves to be true to who they are around their friends. I want them to know that the good friends will love them for the real them. I want them to be there for their friends and vice versa. I want them to be able to discuss hard topics with their friends. I want them to be able to turn to their friends during a hard time. I also want their friends to be able to turn to them. I want them to encourage their friends and lift them up. I want them to be friends with people who are also rooting for them to succeed. I want them to be friends with people who have similar interests and I want them to be kind. I also want them to learn not to be walked all over either. That is an important lesson too. There is so much to teach our children and there is so much for us to learn every day.
I learn more about life and friendship every day. I try to grow and become a better version of myself every day. I have learned to accept that I won’t want to be friends with everyone, and everyone won’t want to be friends with me. I have learned how important quality is over quantity of friends. My greatest lesson is to just be me.
I’m not a perfect friend, wife, mother, daughter, sister….but I will keep trying to offer you my best self!
Go be a good friend. I am going to go tell my friend Happy Birthday for the 30th time. Please share with me the lessons that you have learned about friendship.
Before I go, I want to answer one of my best friends and tell her that I won’t leave you. I’m here for you through the long haul!
Laughing, Loving, Learning,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R