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10 Questions To Ask Your Close Friends Before The New Year Begins

"Friendship isn't about who you've known the longest. It's about who walked into your life and said, 'I'm here for you' and proved it."—Unknown

What About Your Friends?

Something that I try and do, right around this time of the year, is take an inventory of my friendships. Some folks think that it's weird, but I don't care. When you spend enough time working with married couples, and you see in a very up close and personal way that, oftentimes what tends to cause the breakdown of their relationship is either A) they aren't genuinely friends or B) even as friends, they haven't made the time to revisit the needs and expectations that they have, you learn how important taking regular relational inventory actually is. After all, the word "inventory" literally means "to take stock of; evaluate". And why shouldn't you be intentional about evaluating your friendships?

Why do I do it right around this time? There is something about the fall and winter that beckons us to think about where we are in our lives and then ponder how we want to move forward as we prepare to go into the new year. Plus, since a lot of us get to take at least a couple of days off during the holidays, this is also a good time to schedule in some quality time with the homies to make sure that everything's good.

A wise person once said, "A true friend accepts who you are, but also helps you become who you should be." If you want to make sure that you and your friends are doing these things for one another, use these final few weeks of the year to get clarity by asking the following 10 questions—and by allowing your friends to ask you these questions as well. I've done it. It's quite revelatory and beneficial. It definitely helps to bring new light and great insight into where things stand—and that's always a good thing.

1. Are You Happy with Where Things Are?

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The reason why I semi-recently penned "What If You Love Your Friend...But Don't Like Her Anymore?" for the site is because, you'd be amazed how many people are stressed out over what to do about some of their friendships because that is exactly how they feel. They love their friend(s), but they don't like them very much (anymore). Once they allow that reality to simmer, either one of two things typically ends up happening—either a huge fight (and by "fight", I mean fall out) occurs, or they end up ghosting the individual.

I've been ghosted by a close friend before. It took me a while to heal from the experience, so personally, I'm not a fan of it. I feel like things can be handled so much better if some communication transpires. More importantly, proactive communication. That's why I recommend asking your friends if they are happy with where your friendship with them currently is. Not if it's perfect because it ain't, but if, overall, they find joy in the connection and contentment in the relationship. If they are, the rest of these questions will basically be a breeze. If they're not, there's no time like the present to hear why they're not so that you can see if anything can be done to change that.

2. What Can I Do to Strengthen the Trust Between Us?

My friends know that, when it comes to the things that I am convicted on, I'm a pretty black-and-white individual; that I see very little grey. I am fine being that way; it's a part of my core. But where I realize that I had to grow was accepting that everyone is not like me; that our perspectives and experiences can result in us coming to different conclusions on various matters. So, while my friends know that I'm loyal when it comes to keeping their business private and holding them down, I had to strengthen the trust bond by making them feel like they could come to me whether I agreed with what they were saying or doing or not. That, they didn't have to worry about feeling berated or attacked for expressing their own journey—even during the times when they knew they deserved better. I had to work on becoming a safer place and space.

When someone trusts you, it means they are confident in knowing that they can rely on you. When the trust between two people is solid, there is very little that they can't get through together. Trust is something that is ever-evolving. It can never hurt to ask your friends what you can do to make the integrity of your bond with them even stronger.

3. What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses in Our Friendship?

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This is the kind of question that, if you're an ego maniac or super insecure, it can be hard to hear the answers to. But since one of the purposes of friendship is to help us to become better people, it can benefit you to hear your perceived strengths and weaknesses from the ones who love you most.

Here's why I say that. Recently, I had a rare "fight" with a close friend of mine. She said something, three times in a row, that triggered me to the point that I left her office and went home. I was pissed. Because, in times past, my pride would sometimes cause me to wait until the other person came to me first, and also because I'm working more and more on not letting the sun set on my anger (Ephesians 4:26), I called her as soon as I walked through my door. After a two-hour discussion, we talked about how a strength of mine is stating my needs and how a weakness of mine is sometimes taking out my triggers on the wrong people. I shared that a strength of hers is listening really well and a weakness is not always apologizing when she's wrong.

I'd venture to say that if we hadn't had that chat, we could've had an even bigger blow-up next year. It would be because I wouldn't be using this time to deactivate certain triggers, and she wouldn't be working on acknowledging her offenses. But now that we're both aware, we know how to encourage each other to be better. We know how to build up one another's strengths and help each other to grow where are weaknesses are concerned.

4. What Are Your Triggers? Do I Have a Tendency to Push Them?

On the heels of the last point, while reading an article on emotional triggers, I liked how the author defined them as being, "the surprises that we get when someone we love, or a situation, causes us to have a reaction that we haven't processed yet". When I reflect on my own triggers—and also the triggers of some people that I know—I truly believe that some people have conflict, not because of their relationship, but because they are constantly "triggering" each other. However, once the triggers are brought to the forefront, things are able to balance themselves back out and peace is then restored.

This is why, I most definitely recommend that you and your friends talk about one another's triggers. What they are, where they came from and how to avoid poking at them. Again, there's no telling how many friendships could be spared, just by having this one conversation alone.

5. What Is Something That You Wish We Would Do Together More?

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None of us really "have" time in the sense that we're simply twiddling our thumbs and looking for stuff to do. But when you value someone, you find a way to make time for them. No matter what your actual love language may be, all of us need quality time, especially with our close friends. It's a great way to nurture the friendship and, to also be able to spend time together without any distractions.

Something that I like about my friendships is different ones tap into different interests that I have. Yours probably do too. Even if you're only able to get together with your buddies, once a month or, if they live out of town, once a year, be intentional about making plans to hang out. Do something for the first time together. Take a class. Go on a vacation. Do something that reminds you both that, no matter how hectic life gets, you've always got time for each other. And you want to make as many memories together as you possibly can.

6. Do You Think We Make Enough Time for Each Other?

Speaking of time, when you're like me and you're in your 40s and have never been married and you don't have children, sometimes you can find yourself doing most of the work to keep your friendships afloat. At least it can end up being that way until you bring it to the attention of the friends in your life who are married and/or have children. If you're married or a parent and you're reading this, I am confident when I speak for those who don't fit your demographic when I say, "Just because we're not 'your kind of busy', that doesn't mean that we still don't have plenty of ish to do." All people who are living out their purpose do. So, just like you've got to carve out time to hit us up, we've got to do the same.

This was the conversation that I recently had with one of my favorite people on the planet. I had to let her know that, when I looked at my phone, it had been about a month since she rang me, even though we speak a couple of times a week. After I said it, she didn't feel some type of way. She actually acknowledged that she was slipping a bit. Things have been balanced ever since.

Nothing grows when we don't spend time with and on it. And while none of us have a ton of time, for the sake of taking good care of our friendships, it's important that we do our best to make some. More than that, that our friends feel like we are making some just for them.

7. Is There Anything That Bothered You this Year That You’re Holding Onto?

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A girlfriend of mine recently told me about how a girlfriend of hers forgot her birthday for the third year in a row. I'm a Gemini and we tend to act like our birthdays are national holidays, so I could definitely feel her pain. When I asked her what bothered her most about it, she said that it was the fact that, prior to three years ago, this particular friend made a huge deal about her special day. So, she felt like it was a passive aggressive way of addressing—or rather, not addressing—some hard conversations that she's had with her ever since her friend got into a toxic relationship.

When I asked my friend if she was going to discuss this with her friend, she said, "No. If she cared, she'd do better." Eh. My take on her resolve is, that's a lot to assume—the passive aggressiveness, the motive behind dropping the birthday ball, and also thinking that she doesn't care. And what's really crazy is her friend may be out here thinking that everything is perfectly fine. Clearly, it's not.

A good article on suppressed emotions brings up a very valid point—"If you don't face suppressed emotions, you'll stay stuck in getting over it mentality, and it'll become impossible for you to heal." If there's something that you're holding onto, tell your friend(s). While you're at it, ask them if they need to get something off of their chest as well. That way, everyone can go into the new year with clarity and a clean slate. No one will have to drag any baggage that came from holding stuff in instead of (respectfully) letting it all out.

8. What Do You Think We Currently Have in Common?

I'm pretty sure you've heard the C.S. Lewis quote that says, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." Keeping this quote in mind, I've got a male and female friend who I can easily stay on the phone with for hours at a time because we've got so much in common. At the same time, because I'm single, she's married and he's divorced and also because we each live in a different state and do totally different things for a living, our life experiences constantly expose us to new things too.

My girlfriend used to totally consume pop culture; now she's far more into politics. My male friend was a homebody when he was married; now that he's divorced, ole' boy is out there (in about every sense of the word!). As they shift, there are some things that we don't have in common. We're not clones of one another, so that's perfectly fine. But, the reason why I make a point to ask them what they feel that we do have in common is so we can still feel connected via those things, as we give each other the freedom to have other interests with other people too. That way, we don't feel like we're "losing" each other so much as we're celebrating each other's growth and evolution.

9. Are Your Needs Being Met in Our Friendship?

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An article that I wrote on the platform that helped me to get my own self free was "Here's Why You KEEP Not Getting What You Need In Your Relationships". One of the reasons why I kept feeling deprived in some of my relationships with people is because I was expecting others to be the kind of friend that I was—to give in the way that I do, to make time in the way that I do, to be proactive in the way that I tend to be. Another key to better relationships is accepting that you are you and others are, well, them.

Once I started to voice my needs more, one of two things started to happen. Either people fell off or they stepped up. Both results were ultimately for my good. That's why, I am a huge encourager of individuals expressing their needs while asking the people in their life what they need from them in return. If the needs can be met, cool. If they can't, well, there's no time like the present to move out of the way so that someone else can—and will.

10. What Can I Do to Support You at this Stage in Your Life?

If all of us are truly taking our gifts, talents and time seriously, we're not in the same place nor are we the same person that we were this time last year. This means that some of our goals, desires and perhaps, even insights have shifted. This also means that what we needed this time last year may be different than what we require now. That is why I'm ending this piece with suggesting that you ask the close friends in your life about how you can support them in this stage and season.

Case in point. This time last year, I didn't have my latest godchild. Watching her mom, one of my dearest friends, transition from one child to two has been remarkable. It has also meant that I've needed to help her in ways that I never had to before.

When it comes to maintaining strong, healthy and thriving friendships, support is actually one of my favorite words. It means to hold up. It means to endure. It means to "withstand without giving way". Just by caring enough to ask the close friends in your life how you can support them, it will convey a level of love and care that is getting rarer by the day. Two people who support each other, in the ways that they need to be supported, are two people who can stand the test of time on the friendship tip.

Y'all, these are the 10 questions that have truly blessed my friendships. I hope they can do the same for you. Whether it's this month or the next, make the time to connect in this way. No matter how the conversation plays out, it'll be for your—and your friends'—ultimate good.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

This Is How To Apply Love Languages To Your Friendships

10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend

According To Aristotle, We Need 'Utility', 'Pleasure' & 'Good' Friends

Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone "Friend"

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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