Ahhhh, friendships! They teach us so much about social interaction, the people around us and even teach us about ourselves. Studies show that people who regularly engage in social situations (thanks to friends) are found to be happier, healthier and able to beat things like depression, anxiety and isolation. The great thing about life is that, in this existence, we get to learn SO MUCH about the people we share this earth with. Just as life gives us hard lessons to learn from, friendships can teach us a lot as well. We just have to pay attention, and try not to miss these valuable lessons coming our way through our interactions. Friendships (or the idea of developing them) can show us who can be trusted, who is honest, sincere, genuine, and loving. The pursuit of friendships can also show us who is jealous, angry, bitter and untrustworthy. It's in these small lessons that we develop the list of WHO we consider to be a 'friend'.
In my friendships I tend to value honesty, kindness, warmth, empathy, humor, transparency and accountability. That's just me. Your values could be different, but that doesn't change how important they are in relation to how you select your friends. Once you actually know what you consider a friend, and who from your social circles would fall into that category,...you can then ensure that the time spent with these friends is precious and real. Everyone is so busy! We all have deadlines, obligations, errands and responsibilities to balance throughout the week - so when you DO actually set aside time to be with a friend(s), ensure that you are FULLY there. Here's how:
Be Focused...No Distractions:
As I mentioned in previous blog entries on 'being present', ensure that when sitting with your friend(s) you are present both mentally and physically. Maybe put your phone on silent, keep it in your purse without checking it every few minutes. How many times have you walked by a table at a local restaurant or coffee shop and see two people sitting across from one another, both staring at their phones instead of engaging in conversation? I see it often and it's exactly the OPPOSITE of what we are discussing here. Be present. Be there. Make the time worthy of the relationships you have.
Leave Judge Judy at Home:
Listen, our friends aren't perfect. We aren't perfect either. When friends get together, we tend to share things that are currently going on. We talk about relationships, kids, the house, work, family, etc. Depending on how "upbeat" we are feeling that day, we can feel deflated when in the presence of a sister who isn't doing so well. Maybe she's having a difficult time in her marriage, her career, in her parenting, or any other important place in her life. Try your VERY BEST not to judge her experience, write her off, or discount her contribution to the conversation as invaluable. Leave Judge Judy at home! She doesn't need our judgement in that vulnerable moment. She needs her friend, that's YOU. So just be there. The minute we start to judge, we actually leave the conversation -- we stop listening because we are too busy judging her story, and how she is reacting to it.
Our friendships are a reflection of who we are as individuals, so remember that whenever you hear a friend reacting in a way that you don't agree with. Also, please do not forget, today SHE may be the one 'going through it', sounding like a nut job. Next week, that could be YOU! Wouldn't you want the same grace, empathy, and understanding from her in your moments of weakness? Leave the "judgie" hat at home.
Two Ears, One Mouth:
This is a simple one. We were created with two ears, and one mouth. Remember to use those senses proportionately. When sitting with a friend who needs to vent, listen more...talk less. Let her vent. She needs to know that she can say all the ugly, crazy, and off-the-wall thoughts she's thinking to herself, out loud -- to someone who won't judge her for it. This is where you listen, Empathize. Be a witness to her 'owning her story'. When it's time to speak, let it be in love. If she wants your advice or direction, speak words that have the balance of holding her accountable, while still highlighting the beauty of who she is. Here are some examples:
"You really shouldn't have called him out of his name. That probably wasn't your proudest moment. Take a breath, go back home, apologize for your part in this fight. You have a big, beautiful heart. I know you can do this. Time to get your 'happy' back."
"That sounded like your 'fear' talking, not you. Sometimes our fear can have us react in ways that we aren't proud of. It's OK. We all make mistakes. I know your beautiful spirit is much more kind and generous than your fear. Sleep on it, tomorrow is another chance to get it right."
I pray that God bless you with amazing, genuine, truthful friendships that bring you joy, laughter and comfort in times of sadness. That's one of the great things about the self-love journey...when we love ourselves, we can see the love in others and attract the same. When we know our value, we know exactly the type of energy we want to surround ourselves with. We know what we will NOT tolerate, and how to identify certain friendships that would probably be best categorized as acquaintances.
Friend or acquaintance. Your heart will know the difference. But when it's a friend, make sure you're present and willing to engage fully and lovingly.
Peace & Blessings,