The other night one of my dearest girlfriends and I were having a girls’ night of wine and gabbing. After hours of talking about everything from marriage and kids to cooking, boats, and even death, I picked up my phone to realize it was 3 in the morning?!?! I had not stayed up that late in I don’t know how long. We had talked for 5 hours straight and not even realized it. What a blessing to have someone in your life that you can talk to for 5 hours straight and not get bored or annoyed, yet instead feel inspired about life. My friend Leighann is one of those people who makes you feel good every time you are around her. I have been blessed with several friends who energize me about life, all in different ways. My friend Leighann makes me feel inspired, at peace, and loved. My friend Shelby makes me feel like I can do anything, always encouraging me and my ideas. My friend Molly reminds me of the most important things in this life, speaking love and truth. My friend Leila is a great wingman- always there spot on when you want to plan something. And then of course there is my best friend, my husband, the person I can tell everything to and through the good, the bad, and the ugly he simply loves me, he gets me, and he makes my whole body laugh with his humor. From each of them I have learned what it is to be a real friend. In this life there are real friendships and there are ‘maybe’ friends. The ‘maybe’ friends are usually friends for situational reasons or they see an advantage to being friends with you – once that situation changes or advantage doesn’t seem so advantageous anymore they fade. We all at some point have fallen in and out of these friendships, they are just a part of life, but what a gift real friendship is once you’ve experienced it. But just like love and life, you have to give to get. So if you want real friendship you have to give it. I looked at each of my friends, what I treasure about them and what I have learned from them, and came up with 11 ways to be a great friend, it was just too hard to narrow down to 10.
1. Time Apart Nor Distance Changes A Thing – I began noticing as I grew into an adult there were friends I might not see because of summer vacations or living in different cities that when we would reunite there was a certain awkwardness, sometimes the awkwardness even seemed intentional. The one thing that I notice in a true friend is that no matter how much time has passed or distance apart the next time you meet seems like yesterday. Your encounters always seem like no time has passed. With my friend Leighann there is never an awkward beginning to any conversation we always dive right in and pick right back up whether it has been 1 month or 9 months since we last were able to get together. I have known Shelby since college and we have never lived in the same city as adults, but I always feel like she is there with me, we are kindred spirits. When I lived in New York there were 3 people who called me everyday – my now husband, my grandmother, and my friend Molly – when you are so far from the people you love that means the world and that was back when you had real phone conversations not text conversations so each of those phone calls was building a deep relationship.
2. Your Feelings Become Secondary – When you give love something wonderful happens, you begin to think about other people before yourself. Say a friend is going through a tough time and cancels plans on you or a friend forgets to invite you out to an impromptu girls’ night, you could easily get your feelings hurt by feeling let down or left out, but as adults who understand love and what real love is, we must put our ‘hurt feelings’ aside. Sometimes friends will let you down as you will let friends down not meaning to at all, but when your friendship is tried and true your ‘hurt feelings’ do not over shadow the incredible gift you have in a real friend. Likewise you should not allow yourself to be used repeatedly by a ‘maybe’ friend. Recognize that a friend who lets you down repeatedly may just not be that deep of a friendship instead of harboring resentment and hurt feelings.
3. You Talk About Things That Are Inspiring, Not Gossip – With each of my real friends I realize something, we do not just sit around talking about people. For a moment in my life I was surrounded by people who were always talking negative about others, whether it was someone we knew or a celebrity it was all gossip all the time. And the reality of the situation was – these were surface friendships, you didn’t get below the surface because there really wasn’t anything else they knew to talk about. Each of my real friendships possess a capacity to learn and spiritual stimulation. We can talk about anything and I always feel like I have learned something new. The other night my friend and I literally talked about everything from marriage and kids to pickled jalapenos, but what we didn’t do was bash on other people. I always have something new to learn from my friend Shelby whether it is a new song, an artist, or a new Southern made ice cream – there is discovery in each conversation. And as much as I am around my husband, rarely does the conversation turn to gossip. Not that it doesn’t happen because it is inevitable being that we are with one another almost all the time, but most of our conversation consists of our daughter, food, work, home, the future, golf, and lots of belly laughing.
4. You Don’t Keep Score – I love to entertain, having a passion for cooking and throwing parties is a talent God has given me. I have entertained and cooked for friends ever since I was single and living in a studio apartment in Southside, Birmingham. I could have kept score on how many times I invited people over the years and if the invitation was reciprocated, or I can look at it as a talent I have and a gift I enjoy giving while other friends provide gifts other than cooking and entertaining. I remember in college a friend forgot to write a thank you to another friend, that girl in return let everyone know that ‘so-and-so’ had not written her a thank you. As much as a thank you is appreciated, a score card on thank you notes is not friendship – it is a negative reaction.
5. You Check In Even When Your Friend Seems To Have Checked Out – It is part of life that we will grow up and sometimes grow apart from people, people will come into our life and people will go, but one thing I have noticed about the people who have been true blue in my life is even when I seem to check out they always check in with me. We all go through things in our lives that make us reclusive towards people – maybe it is a death in the family, maybe it is having a baby, maybe it is not feeling like a success, maybe it is a stage of rebellion. Whatever the reason we sometimes avoid people we love, the people who really love us will not falter. They may give you space but they will always check back in. My friend Molly was so saddened when my husband and I were going through a very tough time, I tried to check out on listening to her advice and dodged lunch dates, but she consistently showed me friendship with calls that were not judgmental nor surface talk. Her friendship was always a light to me even in dark times.
6. You Are Free To Be Yourself – Do some people make you feel like you are walking on glass? Like you could do the slightest little thing and if they didn’t like it, you might set them off or hurt their feelings? What if you could just be you and they could be themselves and you simply love each other for who you are. We live in a world that encourages selfish reactions when someone does not meet our expectations. But holding other people to our expectations of how we think they should act is not friendship, i.e. ‘You did this and I didn’t like it so now we’re not friends’ or ‘I thought you were like me, but you are not so we’re no longer friends.’ Everyone in this world is created uniquely and we are all made up of good and bad emotions, we will all make mistakes, we will all have sunny days and storms. These are the things that make us who we are. If you want to love the ocean you have to love both the beauty of the rising waves and the crashing into the sand. My best friend, my husband, has taught me the most important lessons about friendship. A real friend doesn’t falter nor are they a doormat. They are there for you when you are at your best and when you are at your worst. They are your cheerleader when you need to be lifted up and your coach when you’re fumbling. He knows everything about me – the good, the bad, and the ugly and he loves me simply because he loves me. Friendship isn’t making someone feel ashamed or small when they do not meet your expectations, it is loving all the parts that make that person who they are.
7. You Build People Up, You Don’t Hold Them Back – Good people and good conversation are better than any drug. When I am around a real friend I feel like I could take on anything. Their positivity and belief in me is so infectious I am inspired about life, thankful to be alive, and closer to God because of them. Real friends energize you, they do not exhaust you. Those ‘maybe’ friends just seem to leave you feeling spiritually exhausted after being around them – perhaps all you did was talk about money and that left you feeling like you weren’t keeping up with the Joneses, or all you did was talk about how unhappy you were with your husbands and that left you feeling like your marriage wasn’t good enough. Perhaps you mentioned something exciting going on in your life like a job opportunity in New York and their response was, “How are you ever going to live there it is so expensive and so dirty?” Or you are in a new relationship and they respond, “Well let’s hope this one works out.” Those are negative statements that just do not help someone. As much as we all need reality checks every now and again, statements like those are not caring, they are rude. Real friends build you up and see your potential even when you may not see it in yourself.
8. You Control Your Jealousy – Jealousy is inevitable, but a real friend knows how to tell the green-eyed monster to go away. We will all be jealous at some point and the important thing is to recognize it and keep it in check. Maybe a friend got engaged before you or maybe a friend just got to go into business for herself or maybe a friend has the income to travel all the time to places you really want to go. When these things happen a little mean voice inside tends to creep up and say things like, “If she only knew the things he has done she might not want to walk down the aisle with him.” Or “I would much rather have great benefits and a constant paycheck than have to deal with the risk of being an entrepreneur.” Or “I wish I could travel but I guess I just think it’s more important to be at home.” Firstly, your friend is probably very excited about the things going on in her life and just wants to share them with someone she can trust. Secondly, your friend isn’t enjoying herself all the while doing a mad scientist laugh about you sitting at home single in a 9 to 5 job. Be the type friend who encourages your friend’s success and rejoices in their talents. We are better together and that means just like I said in number 7, we need to build each other up. The person who has to say rude, jealous statements only does it because they are insecure and think it will make them feel better about themselves. I have been blessed with friends in my life who rejoice in my successes, I have also experienced people being jealous and rude to me in front of other people. One night at dinner a friend who was always very encouraging suggested I cover a story on MyScoop, another ‘maybe’ friend who was quite inebriated spoke up loudly and said “Oh that story is bigger than MyScoop, that is New York Times or Oprah worthy.” I just sat there, ignored it, and realized what type of friend that person was to me. I am not trying to take over the world with MyScoop, I am simply following a passion God has given me to write while hoping to inspire people in the process. I am as guilty of jealousy as the next person, but I keep it in check and only want to lift my friends up, not deliberately make them feel small so I can feel big. I get excited when cool things happen to people I love and even when they happen to people I do not even know that well.
9. You Feel Heard – There are plenty of times when I have talked too much about things going on with me, but as much as I like talking I equally love listening and each real friend in my life is a wonderful listener. There was a time in my twenties when I remember fighting for conversation or waiting for my turn to talk not even listening to what was being said, as I have grown and maybe it is having a child, I have learned to listen. It is beautiful thing to stop your lips from moving and stop your brain from thinking ‘what should I say next?’, and really listen to what your friend is saying. Listening is also the only way to really learn about someone and pay attention to the inflections in their voice as they tell you something thrilling, something dramatic, or something very heart felt.
10. There’s No ‘What’s In It For Me?’ – Genuine love, inspiration, and encouragement those are the most important things you can gain from a friendship and in order to receive them you have to be willing to give them. What you shouldn’t look for is popularity, season football tickets, someone to validate your vices, or someone who offers to pay for everything. These are all shallow things and just like shallow water they will move one way one day and disappear the next. Genuine love, inspiration, and encouragement those are the things that will anchor you in deep water even during stormy weather.
11. You Laugh Like You May Just Fall To The Floor – One of the most important aspects of real friendship – laughter. There are things that my husband says that literally have me rolling on the floor unable to breathe I am laughing so hard. We usually wake up laughing and even when we argue one of us usually ends up saying something so silly it brings us to laughter, a trait we are trying to instill in our daughter as well. I can distinctly remember moments like this with my girlfriends too – some of which the mere thought of conjures up belly laughing. My friend Shelby and I will text each other random funny quotes the other has said throughout our friendship, this always brings a smile.
Real friendship is real love and “love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered…” -Corinthians 13:4