In an era when friendship can be tallied on social media and include people whom we never met, one sometimes can wonder what really means to have a friend in 2019. The line that divided friends from acquaintances have become blurred and the true meaning of the word faded along the way.
Today, however, I don’t mean to question or discuss the role of social media in our idea of friendship. Instead, I’ll focus on our face-to-face friends. The ones that we talk to in person or over the phone and that we want to include in our personal lives. I can recall several moments in my life when my friends were the people who stood by me, who lifted me up and ‘glued’ me back together. I also remember the ones who disappointed me. The ones I thought I could count on, but never showed up. I have seen my kids and my students having the same issues from time to time. Even as an adult, friendship issues don’t fully go away. We just (hopefully) develop a better eye to spot friendship.
Times of Need
“In times of need, you know who your true friends are.” I’ve heard so many versions of this saying that I lost count. But, is it true? I know that most of us definitely want our friends when we need them, but that doesn’t exclude the fact that some of our friends might be unfit to offer the support we need. Yes, an acknowledgement of our difficult times sounds like a reasonable expectation, but people are not always equipped to offer support. Nonetheless, I always felt that, in times of need, enough people show up to offer support. Even strangers sometimes come out of the woodwork to offer a helping hand.
But I believe that true friendships can be measured in times of joy. That’s right! I consider the people who stand by me through my accomplishments my true friends. If you stop and think, it makes sense.
How are you as friend? Take a look at yourself and be honest. Imagine that your husband, your child, or your current boyfriend/girlfriend whom you absolutely adore got the promotion of a lifetime. They buy a new car, hire a personal trainer, get fit, and spend a month traveling through Europe. You’d probably be happy and proud. Most of us would also feel the same about our siblings and close relatives (the ones we really love). But, as we extend this scenario to all the people that we know, you’ll see that we wouldn’t feel the same way about everyone. Even about some of our friends.
The fact is that we see some people as less deserving, less smart, or less competent than us. And I’m sure that many people are. But when someone we truly love just gets lucky, we’re happy for them no matter what. Even if their luck puts them in a better place than ours, we celebrate. The flipside is that, if we can’t be happy for them, it means that we don’t truly love them or we are not truly their friend. Wow! That makes us seem a little selfish, right!?
Somehow, it’s much easier to help people than to celebrate them. We learn from a very young age that we should help those in need, that we should be compassionate, understanding, and selfless. But, when we help someone, the implicit message is that we are somehow better or at least better off. So, helping makes us feel good. And, while I agree that taking your time to help others is a form of selflessness, I say that celebrating those who are better off than us is even more so. When we can honestly be happy about someone else’s victories, we do it just for them. Similarly, the friends who celebrate my accomplishments, with nothing to gain, do it for me. Even among the people I call ‘friends,’ this type of friend is rare, but they are the ones that I know I can always count on.
Build Your Friendships
Instead of shutting people out of your ‘friend’ list, you should build better friendships. It begins with you. BE that friend who celebrates other people’s victories. If you call someone a ‘friend,’ BE happy if they somehow are better off than you. Even if you think it’s pure luck, BE happy for them. Teach your kids to celebrate their friends’ accomplishments and be happy for others, even when there’s nothing for them. If enough of us choose to be the kind of person who celebrates their friends, our circle of true friendships would be much richer.