Tag Archives: friendship

How to Tell if You’ve Got a Good Friend

To tell the truth, I haven’t always been the best at being a friend.  I even used to think that I could get by without really having close friends at all.  I enjoy time to myself, and close relationships are kind of scary, so it was easy to tell myself I could do without close friendships.  But experience (and Philosophy class) has taught me otherwise.  We need friends in our lives.  Most people seem to know that this is true, but fewer people really understand the reason why.

Friends are there to help us become better people.  They do this by helping us think clearly.  The true friend knows who we are; he understands the way we think, and so he is able to help us come to conclusions we could not see on our own.

In a way, this is contrary to what a lot of people my age seem to think about friends.  We think friends are there to “watch our back” or to save us from our boredom.  In reality, a lot of our “friendships” do the exact opposite of helping us think clearly.

I have had my share of both good and bad friendships, so I thought I would draw from my own experience and put together a list of some of the qualities I have found to be most necessary in a true friend (and most lacking in a bad friend).

1.)  The true friend talks to you about things that matter

Talking about the weather is nice, and I love a good conversation about my favorite TV shows, but these aren’t the conversations I most look forward to having with my friends.  My closest friends are the people I can talk to seriously about what my goals for the future are, what I am struggling with, or go to for advice on any number of topics.  We may joke around and talk about trivial things at times as well, but a real friend tends to elevate the conversation.

2.)  A friend has no problem calling you out

I am the biggest baby when it comes to any type of criticism.  My feelings get hurt and I may become upset and defensive with the person giving the feedback, but this doesn’t stop my closest friends from calling it like they see it.  Despite how I may initially react, I am so thankful for this.  The real friend isn’t worried about hurting your ego a little bit if it means you seeing the truth.

3.)  Friends don’t ask or expect you to lie for their sake

Sometimes it takes losing a relationship in order to be a real friend.  The true friend won’t agree to lie in order to cover for someone else, even if asked.  Lying is damaging to us on so many levels.  The truth always comes out eventually, and a lot of hurt can usually be avoided if it comes out sooner rather than later.

4.)  Finally, the true friend is striving to be a good person himself

You can’t expect someone to be a good friend if they are not a good person.  The true friend will help you become a better person, so it follows that someone who is not a good person already can’t help you to become one yourself.  Friendships involve a give and take.  We both learn from our friends as well as teach them.  Make sure you are learning from teachers who know what they are talking about.

Getting Rid of a Bad Friend:

So what do you do if you find yourself in a friendship that is not good for you?  You run.

Aristotle says that getting rid of a bad friend is like getting rid of a bad habit.  And anyone who has tried knows that getting rid of a bad habit is extremely difficult.  In a similar way, getting rid of a friendship, especially one that has been a part of us for so long, can feel as excruciating as cutting off an arm that has been infected with gangrene.   But you really have no other option.  If you don’t amputate, the infection will spread throughout the whole body and eventually will cost you your life.

Finding a Good Friend:

Also as with habits, it is not enough to simply try and get rid of the bad friendship.  You have to replace it with a good friendship.  Otherwise, you will fall back into the old one.  We have to be picky about choosing our friends.  We can’t be so naive as to think the people we spend our time with have no effect on us.  So in choosing your friends, look for people who have the characteristics described above.  Look for people who challenge you to be a better person.

(if this post was familiar it’s because it was originally posted on January 25, 2011)

Breaking Up…With a Friend

I have received a few questions that fall under the category of discerning whether a particular friendship is good for you, and what to do if it isn’t.

We know from Scripture that Christ is pretty clear about loving your neighbor, and even loving and praying for your enemies.  On the one hand, it doesn’t seem like a very “loving” thing to do to just up and cut someone out of your life completely.  At the same time, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that, “bad company corrupts good morals,” and furthermore, Jesus says that, “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”

From Paul’s words we hear that we cannot play the, “my friends do bad things but I’m still a good person” card. And Jesus’ command tells us what to do when the inevitable occurs if and when we decide to keep the bad company anyway.

All of that sounds pretty cut and dry in the abstract.  But how do we apply it to our life?  In other words: How do we know if we need to cut a specific relationship out of our life?

For starters, you know that friendship (or friendships) that popped into your head the second you started reading this post?  I’m just guessing here, but they may not be the best people you could be hanging out with…

The way I see it, there is only one reason to cut someone out of your life completely.  “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”  Translation: If you find yourself committing the same sins over and over again every time you hang out with a certain friend or a certain group of people, you need to lose those friends.  And before you accuse me of being judgmental or of advising you to be unnecessarily harsh, hear this: those friends need to lose you, too.

This is a two-way street.  The relationship is mutually detrimental if it leads to sin, no matter who introduced the sin in the first place.  By choosing to walk away, you’re witnessing to the fact that sin is not acceptable, and that leading a holy life pleasing to God is worth any sacrifice.  That is a great act of love, and it is one of the best things you could do for the other person.  Staying in a friendship that centers on or leads to habitual sin is just going to continue to hurt everyone involved, and in a much more profound and potentially permanent way than bruised egos.

So you know you need to distance yourself from a specific person, or group of people.  But it’s much easier said than done, I know.  To help, here are some suggestions.

1. Be honest

Honesty is always, always, always, the best policy.  Explain to your friends that you need some space, and be honest about why.  Don’t blame them (use “I” words, not “you” words).  Say that you’re trying to change ____ in your life, and that you need the space so that you are truly able to do that.

2. Try to Avoid the Last-Minute Promise to Change

It may be that your friend will hear what you’re saying and, in an attempt to keep you in his or her life, will make some sort of gesture to offer to help you beat this.  This could be the most well-intentioned statement, but I would still advise to resolve to some distance.  The reason being: the habits you have formed while hanging out with this friend, or group of friends, may be deeper than you realize.  And despite best intentions to change, if the only thing separating last Friday night from this Friday night is a flimsy agreement to change, it will be all too easy to fall back into not-so-old [bad] habits.  You need the distance.  And, depending on how deep-seated the habits are, you need some drastic change to overcome them.

3. If You’re Convinced Your Friend Just Won’t Understand…

Then you just have to go cold-turkey.  Cut off all communication, even if it has to be without explanation.  Honesty is best, but if the relationship you need out of your life is so destructive that you do not even feel comfortable sharing your true feelings, then maybe they wouldn’t even be heard anyway.  If your friend does care about you, they’ll seek you out and ask you what is going on.  When you’re ready, you can tell them.  If they’re true friends, they’ll understand in that moment.

4. Be Patient (and pray!) for New Friends

The bad news: this may mean your next couple of weekends are kind of boring.  That’s really ok.  Better to experience a little bit of boredom than placing your soul in jeopardy, right?  God knows your struggle, and He’s with you through it.  Finding good friends may not come easy.  It may take an awkward young adult gathering (or 4), or putting yourself out there when it’s uncomfortable, but it will happen.  God knows you need friends, and do not fool yourself into thinking otherwise.  Just be patient in waiting to find the right ones.

5. Look in the Right Places for Friends

It’s kind of like dating.  If you’re looking for a nice Catholic girl, don’t go looking in the bar at 2:00am.  It’s not that you won’t find Catholics who like to have a good time, it’s just that you have a better chance of finding them if you first look for the “Catholic” part of the equation, and then narrow down your options from there.  Likewise, with friends, first look for the ones who are “good”, and then narrow down your options.  So start in places that have a high probability of “good” people, like church, school (the people that actually go every day), or even some sort of extracurricular activity.

 6. Pray for Your Old Friends

It will help you through the lonely times, and the reality is that you will always care about them, even if you don’t speak.  Praying for them is truly the best thing you can do for them and for yourself during this time.  And who knows?  Maybe in the future, after you have both had time to get over your bad habits, God will bring you into each other’s lives again.

The Guy-Girl Friendship

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Men and women can’t be just friends.

It was the main point of a video that made the rounds a few months back in the wonderful world of social media, shared below for your convenience.

Makes a compelling case.  But regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on in this debate, I think there is one thing on which we can all agree: dynamics are certainly different when there are members of the opposite sex present in a group of people than they are in a group composed of only men or only women.  Translation: Ladies, your “best guy friend” acts differently when he’s with you than he does when he’s with his best guy friend (and he probably doesn’t refer to him as that, either).

As the video points out, the number one obstacle to a true guy-girl friendship are those pesky feelings.  You may not have them for your friend, but whose to say that your “friend” doesn’t have them for you?  And whose to say that your or your friend’s feelings won’t change (even if it be for no other reason than loneliness or boredom)?  Let it be said that this tendency towards “feelings” is actually a good thing, so don’t try to snuff it out, because it only means you’re human.  But knowing the tendency exists and being overcome by it are two different things.  It’s the difference between living in reality and living in the seventh season of a sitcom.  This is why we set boundaries.

The fact of the matter is: we are going to have friendships with people of the opposite sex.  It’s a good and healthy thing—except when it’s not.

Given that the guy-girl friendship is a different relationship with different dynamics than a friendship made up of members of the same sex, it’s fitting that behavior patterns ought to be different as well.  For example, it’s not exactly appropriate to have a sleepover with your friend of the opposite sex, whereas it’s totally normal behavior for friends of the same sex to stay the night at one another’s house from time to time.  But that’s an obvious one (or at least, it was when we were 10, maybe not so much sometimes now that we’re older unfortunately).  What kinds of emotional boundaries should there exist between friends of the opposite sex?

I’ve always thought that a good rule of thumb is to think of what it would be like if you or your friend was involved in a romantic relationship.  Better yet, imagine it was your husband or wife who had a friend of the opposite sex, and what boundaries you would want that relationship to have.  You probably wouldn’t be cool with them going out for coffee three times a week and texting every other hour.  If that’s the case and yet that relationship describes your friendship with someone of the opposite sex right now, then it may not be the healthiest of relationships.

If it looks like a date, walks like a date, and smells like a date, then it just might be a date.  Persistent one-on-one outings with the same friend of the opposite sex sends a message, not just to other people who may notice (and yes, they notice), but to yourself and to your friend.  Better to set the boundaries for yourself now than to be wishing you did down the line when things get complicated.

Have all of the friends of the opposite sex that you please, but it’s of the utmost importance that you also have close friends who belong to your gender as well.  I don’t care how well your best guy friend “gets” you— Only a woman can truly understand what it means to be a woman and only a man can truly understand what it means to be a man.  Trust me, your relationships with people of the opposite sex will be all the more meaningful once you have real relationships with people of the same sex.

And, of course, as all relationships ought to be, ground your friendships—regardless of gender—in God and in prayer.  🙂

 

 

 

 

How to Be Happy For Other People (in 4 easy steps!)

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Envy is one of the most ugly things we can struggle with in our relationships with others— especially with those we call our friends.

Despite knowing we ought to be happy for our friends when they call us with
good news about school/work/a relationship/ etc., we may often find ourselves suddenly comparing how we are faring in those fields to the positive news that our friend just shared with us about their life.  Before we know it, and often without even realizing what we are doing, we begin looking for all of the negatives in that other person in order to make ourselves feel better about our own lives.  Rather than being happy for our friend, we choose to tear them down, even if only in our own minds.

Some of us may realize this terrible tendency within us, and so we rightly attempt to correct it.  But we often choose a method that, though better than tearing another person down, is still not ideal because it robs us of our own happiness.  We choose to compare ourselves to that other person.  We know it’s silly to wish that other person harm, so instead, we conclude that the other person is awesome and we just have to live with the fact that we are not.

Neither of these options is healthy, and neither is what God wants for us.  Since good things are inevitably going to happen to the people we know in life (yay!), I thought I’d put together a plan of action to help deal with envy and this terrible tendency of comparing ourselves to other people.

 1.     Reasonably examine your feelings

So you’re not happy for your friend.  Acknowledge it.  Acknowledge it to yourself and in your prayer to God, because it’s pointless to pretend with yourself or with God.  Be real about your feelings, but let them lead to this question:

Why aren’t you happy for your friend’s success?  Chances are, there is no good reason for you to not be rejoicing in your friend’s good fortune.  Still, it’s incredible how talented we are at coming up with even the tiniest of reasons as to why we aren’t as happy as we should be for our friends.  We recall past times when that person made a mistake and somehow allow that to lead us to the conclusion that they should not be allowed to have any successes ever again. Makes perfect sense, right?  Of course not.  But it’s important to go over these reasons of why you’re not happy so that you can see just how illogical they are.  Which brings me to step two.

2.     Go over all of the logical reasons for why you should be happy

Even if your friend was just the random winner of some contest that had nothing to do with personal ability or skill, (i.e., they did nothing to deserve this positive news) that’s still no good reason for you to wish this were not happening to them.  So make a list, and write it down if you have to, of all the reasons why you should be happy for your friend.  Here are some to get you started:

  • It’s rare that positive things happen by chance and without at least some small amount of effort.  Your friend likely worked hard to achieve whatever positive thing is happening in their life.  You should acknowledge that.
  • You care about your friends.  You don’t want to see them unhappy, so you should logically rejoice to see them happy.
  • You would expect your friends to be happy when something good happened to you.  If they weren’t, you’d wonder what kind of friends they were.
  • Being unhappy for your friend will likely hurt your relationship with them.
  • Even if you had a good reason (which you don’t), being unhappy for or about your friend is not going to make you feel better about yourself.
  • If all else fails: Jesus says so.  (Mark 12:30-31)

3.     Realize that another person’s happiness takes nothing from you

At its core, I think this tendency to comparison and to envy is rooted in fear.  We’re afraid that, if good things happen to our friends, there won’t be enough good to go around for us.  As a result, it’s hard to be happy for our friends’ good fortune because a small part of us fears that this means there is less left for us.  But all we need to do is realize this one simple truth: One person’s happiness truly takes nothing from you.

Remember that we live within time.  Good things are going to happen to you, and they are going to happen to the people around you—but they may not always occur on the same day.  It doesn’t mean you’re never going to be happy again.  Cicero wrote that, “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”  When your friend is happy, you should actually rejoice because you get to share in that happiness.

4.  Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you know all of the reasons why you should be happy, and that you have no real reason not to be happy, it’s time to practice genuine happiness.  Don’t be fake, but don’t expect fuzzy feelings over night either.  Realize that, after years of negativity, it will take practice to get used to being happy for other people.  So fight the urge to look for the negative by repeating to yourself the reasons why you should be happy for your friend.  Ask them questions about the good thing they have shared with you and look for all of the reasons to rejoice with them.  Put yourself in their shoes and realize that they probably told you because they want you to share in their happiness.  And of course, pray, pray, pray for the grace to be genuinely happy for those around you.

A Letter of Apology (from the Flaky Friend)

Truth Time:  I can be somewhat flaky when it comes to relationships.

I’m that person you get fed up with for forgetting to call you back.  I’m also the person who had every good intention of replying to your text message this afternoon, but forgot—again.  And yeah, sometimes I’m that person who seems to fall off the face of the planet for a week at a time when I have other obligations that occupy my time.

On behalf of my fellow flakes, I’d like to apologize for our behavior.  It’s not that we don’t care about you—it’s just that we’re different from you.  This would all make a lot more sense if you would just take some time to sit down with me and consider a blank white sheet of paper. (Trust me)

When you see a sheet of blank paper, you think it’s pretty boring.  You’re eager to write all over it, doodle in the margins, and, if you have the time, fold it into an origami duck—just to see if you can.

I, on the other hand, see a white sheet of paper and stare at it for a good five minutes.  It may be kind of boring—but look how white it is!  The minute I put a marking on it, its innate whiteness will be ruined forever!  Fold it?  Are you crazy?  You can’t unfold a fold!

Sometimes I find myself thinking like this when it comes to relationships.  When I finally realize that staring at the whiteness of paper (or trying to nurture a friendship without communication) is something that crazy people do, I set out to create my masterpiece—but not without being very, very careful.  There’s no room for mistakes in a masterpiece, right?  Then, inevitably (because of a silly little thing called human nature), I end up messing up something along the way.  And I’d sooner wait for a new blank sheet of paper (or another friendship) to appear than deal with the ugly smudge mark that trying to erase my mistake would surely leave.

What you call being flaky, us flakes often think of as trying to preserve as much of the pristine whiteness that still remains on the paper.  Sure, there may be some cool drawings already on the paper, but isn’t it better for the paper to be empty (boring as that may seem) than to be filled with smudges or scratched out mistakes?

The truth that people like me don’t often take enough time to consider, is that no man can create a perfect masterpiece, but the talented artist knows how to weave even his most embarrassing smudges into his final work.

That’s an intimidating venture for people like me—which is why we are particularly thankful that we have people like you in our lives.  You pull us out of our flakiness, and aren’t afraid to tell us we’re crazy for staring at blank white sheets of paper.  So please, on behalf of flakes everywhere, don’t give up on us.  🙂

Article first published as A Letter of Apology (from the Flaky Friend) on Technorati.