Lately, we drop friends like flies and many of us do it under the guise of ridding ourselves of haters or cling-ons. Scroll any social media platform and it will be overrun with anecdotal threads of friend-dropping over some of the smallest and most easily solvable issues. Often the issue is not that someone has done us wrong but rather that we have misunderstood what friendship is and how to operate in it with integrity.
A lesson that I learned well in undergrad is that not every one of my friends serves the same function in my life. In the same way, I do not serve the same function in each of my friend's lives. Coming to grips with this truth, enabled me to leave behind the childish notion that friends do everything together, think the same things, and function co-dependently.
That is not friendship. That is dysfunction.
When we demand behavior of our friends that is simply not within their character, personality, or interests - we show how little we know about them and how little we respect individuality and the primary function of friendship. Friendship is a mutual exchange of love and support, real talk and hard conversations, anticipation and celebration, adventure and shared stillness. Each of these can look differently depending on the one-on-one relationship between friends. None of these must be identical to any other friendship. When we are deceived into believing that all our friendships must function exactly alike, we rob ourselves and others of the ability to be true to ourselves and in our relationships, ultimately stealing opportunities for growth and evolution.
Friendship is more than Sunday brunches, Instagram photos, and being each other's bridesmaids. Just for the photo opp. Just because we look like we should be friends. Just because we're cute in photos together. When we push past the superficial, we can get to the good stuff of our friendships. Here are three key thoughts on friendships - how to choose them, honor them, and grow them.
Decide Who You Are And What You Value
There is little we can ask of others in relationships of any kind when we are not clear on who we are, what we bring to the table, and what we value. This is the first key to understanding and appreciating your friend circle. Ignorance to your own values and needs will have you constantly linking up with people with whom you don't mesh. This often leads to misunderstandings, you trying to change them, and them resenting you for not accepting them as they are.
When you know who you are and what you value in life and relationships, your discernment of people will be that much more keen and point you in the direction of friendships that will last.
Define What Friendship Means To You
Watch any high school flick and it's easy to see how many have been conditioned to believe that friendship means blind loyalty and absence of individuality. As adults, it's our duty to check ourselves on how we see friendship, not only to maintain healthy relationships but to ensure that we don't alienate others with our bogus expectations. Not everyone who could potentially be a true friend to you has to enjoy all of the things you enjoy. In many cases, they don't have to have all the same views as you either - be clear on what views are harmless and which are harmful.
If you cannot appreciate your friends for their unique qualities, opinions, and abilities - chances are, you are either never going to enjoy the beauty of friendship or your life will be a revolving door of friends who you've pushed away for not being what you want them to be. If you need someone to control and tell you what you want to hear, you want a 'yes-woman' not a friend. Be clear and do the self-work to evolve from that way of operating if you don't want to end up alone.
Be Clear On Your Go-To's
More often than not, no two friendships are the same even within the same social circles. There may be one or two people within your circle with whom you pray and discuss spiritual principles and there may be one or two other people with whom you're more comfortable discussing political views and reality television.
This is not an exercise in creating cliques within a clique. It is how emotionally intelligent, observant, and considerate people use their discernment. Why would you ask your friend who is struggling with her belief in God to pray with you? That is not her strong suit and there is no shame there, it's fact. Knowing your friends' strengths and how they show up best in your life is paramount to maintaining healthy friendships.
Make Sure You Show Up As A Friend, Too
Society has a way of causing us to look outward at what everyone else is doing while we gloss over how we're showing up in the world. Are you a good friend? One of the best ways to draw quality friendships into your life is to decide to be a good friend. To operate in integrity in your relationships. To show up for those you care for as honestly and lovingly as you can without depleting yourself.
Friendship is a gift. It is more than an Instagram Boomerang or girls' night out. To get to the crux of its beauty, we have to commit to valuing the uniqueness of each relationship we have. That's where the treasure lies. That's where our lives can be enriched and we can enrich others'.
Ashley is a writer and producer who creates content & experiences from the crossroads of faith, creativity, and culture. Proud member of church in the wild. Vibe with her on Twitter/Instagram: @ashleylatruly. Check out her work at www.ashleyjh.com.
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