Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friendship Value

I've spent a lot of time in the last six months thinking about friendship. Why it works, and what to do when it doesn't, and what makes up a good friend. In this process, I discovered that quality is significantly more important than quantity. I didn't get this at all when I was younger. I was considered a social butterfly, and had a lot of friends, but it was easy to be liked because I made certain there was no reason people wouldn't like me.

Of course, I had fights with my friends, and I had one childhood best friend who I still have to this day. We've had many ups and downs, and differences of opinion, but we've stuck it out and our friendship has endured. I have a friend from high school who is still a good friend, and many from university and my early twenties, even though we are now literally scattered across the globe.

I love Facebook for keeping in regular touch with these friends. It's fast and easy to engage in snippets of conversation and see each other's current lives through pictures and status updates. It's not the meat of relationships, but when we see each other, we pick up as if no time at all has gone by. That is valuable to me. Longevity and roots in relationships ground us when we move or life becomes stressful. In upheaval, we tend to know who our real friends are.

Setting relationship boundaries in the last six months has radically altered the lines of some of my newer friendships. I began to see things I didn't like in a few of my relationships. I didn't like what I felt I had to do to be accepted. These friendships were exhausting. I worked all of the time to help and anticipate needs and I never felt like it was enough. I know that my own brokenness played a part in what wasn't working in these relationships, and I was willing to take responsibility for that, but the price was too high for me to continue.

Learning to live in a world where I stood up for myself and ended up making enemies was extremely difficult. It felt uncomfortable all of the time. My sense of value and worth was tied up in what other people thought of me, and did not reside in who I am. Changing that was one of the best things I've ever done, but it meant making some difficult decisions about the relationships I was in.

All change is hard. It hurts, and makes you doubt yourself, and many times I had to be talked down from the ledge by those friends who were still standing by me. When the dust settled, I saw who I could trust, for better or for worse, and hung on to those friends like a shipwreck survivor clings to driftwood in the middle of the ocean. I was adrift, but found strength in who I am, and knew that I could never go back to my old people-pleasing ways.

I am an entirely new version of myself now, but those long-time friends who knew me before have adapted to my changes. There are some rough points in that journey, but if we love each other and forgive one another for our shortcomings, and we can see that the new person is stronger and healthier than the previous one, the friendship can grow stronger.

I have looked at myself in this time period as well, and know I want to judge less and accept more about my friends. I have been hard to please in the past, and have withheld my truest feelings in order to keep the peace, and I don't think I was being a good friend when I did that.

Now I can practice being the kind of friend I've always wanted to be. Supportive, loving, genuine, and gentle in my requests. I don't want to make demands, or have demands dictated to me. True friendship is too valuable for that, and I want to treat it with respect for the treasure that it is.

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