Friends. How many of us have them? Friends. Ones you can depend on?
These lyrics are from Whodini’s infamous song “Friends“. (<— click here if you haven’t heard it.) But more than that these, are very real questions that I’m sure at one point or another you may have asked yourself. Can I trust my friends? What makes a friend? How did we even become friends? Will this friendship last?
Throughout most of my adult life I have kept my friend circle really tight. I mean REALLY tight. It has always been easy for me to talk to people and engage in great conversation, but to dub someone a “friend” is something that is intimate, sacred, and very much a guarded space for me.
My childhood friendships definitely helped cultivate this outlook on what is means to have friends. Getting burned by hurtful gossip or harmful words from those I cared about left a stain on my heart at an early age. I’m talking those stains that are so deep in the fibers that no matter how many times you washed it, no matter how much it looked like it was fading away, you could still see them if you looked close enough. And sometimes, you can still remember the incident(s) that caused that stain.
I was speaking with a friend of mine earlier last month who is trying to navigate difficulties in her life. She is experiencing negative thoughts, sadness, and despair that seem to keep piling on top of one another to the point where it seems like there is she feels hopeless. She expressed to me that when exposing this vulnerability and weakness to another friend, she was met with tough love. As you can imagine it was not received well. Right Message, Wrong Delivery.
My concern was two-fold. Intention and Expression. What was the intention of the tough love? Was it because she didn’t want my friend to suffer any longer and by expressing it in a matter-of-fact way, this would jolt her out of her dark place. My friend was pissed. Broken and fragile, she just wanted to be handled with care. She even contemplated ending this 7 year friendship.
When friends hurt your feelings the most important step once you’ve taken a second to reflect, is to express this to him or her. Let them know that you know they meant well but the delivery muddled the message. Friends should be able to be open and honest. This is not to say everything will be received well all of the time but communication, more often than not, may just be the glue to mend a potential broken bridge.
If for some reason you feel like you can’t tell your friend that they hurt your feelings then the friendship needs to be assessed. Is this just my “tag-along” friend who we can have fun at party and get-away trips? Is this a surface level friend where we can talk about general topics but never anything too personal? Or is this my “soul-mate” friend that maybe doesn’t know how to talk with sensitivity? If the latter is the case ( plug in your own scenario), then learn to navigate that and prepare yourself to enter these conversations with this armor of knowledge.
Overtime we learn each other and know what makes the other person happy, or sad, or pushes his/her buttons. That is the beauty of friendships. Aside from a spouse or family member, they are also intricate soul-mates that become a part of us. We grow together and sometimes a part but we grow nonetheless. And throughout that process we learn about others and most importantly ourselves. True friends can hold a mirror to show us our best qualities and also our character flaws. We must take those moments when we get hurt to not just assess our friendships but to learn about ourselves and why that thing that bothered you, got under your skin.
My friend circle is small but even still my mission is to grow deeper more meaningful relationships with them and to grow a deeper understanding of myself.
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