Tag Archives: habits

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)

The Gift of Shame (And the Habit of Justifying Stupidity)

God is so kind to me.  Knowing that I would suffer from writer’s block today (despite a list of potential blog topics and questions to answer), He nudged a reader to send me this list, knowing it would give me an idea of something to write about.

So thanks for that, God.  (and Joe!) 🙂

Onto the post:

The aforementioned link is to a list of “25 Things I’ve Learned in My Twenties.”  (If you haven’t figured it out by now, us bloggers like these kinds of “list” posts.  They’re almost as simple to write as they are to read.  Plus, they’re fun!)  Posts like these serve as sort of cautionary lists of advice while at the same time patting the reader on the back, as if to say, “what you’re going through is completely normal experience.  We’ve all been there (or will be there).  But if you haven’t been there yet, here’s what you can do to make it a little easier on yourself.”

Anyway, a casual glance at the list will likely be enough for you to figure out that I don’t agree with everything on it.  There are things like drugs being normal and fine so long as they’re not negatively affecting you (because hey, drugs can sometimes be a good and productive use of your time, right?), or getting wasted and puking in public (everyone does it, so you should too!), and sleeping around (the solid foundation of any healthy and fulfilling lifestyle).  “All of these are normal experiences in your twenties, so don’t worry about it,” is the vibe we get from the article.

Okay, fine.  I can’t address every one of these, but the ability to reason that you’ve hopefully developed by the time you’ve hit your twenties ought to be enough to give you a hint that some of the items on this list are not exactly the best advice to be following.

However, in my opinion, number 12 is worth addressing specifically, because I think it’s a lie we might be tempted as young people to tell ourselves quite frequently:

12. You’re going to betray your convictions. You’re going to feel shame. You’re going to continue to put yourself in situations that aren’t good for you. And then, slowly but surely, it will become less frequent. It might not ever go away completely but it won’t be as bad. In the meantime, stop shame spiraling about it. It gets you nowhere.

For starters: Why are we considering it a given that you’re going to betray your convictions?  Sure, we’re all human and we all make mistakes.  We may very well do things that betray our convictions.  But a surefire way to guarantee that happening is to tell yourself that it’s going to.  By definition, if you have convictions, you should be doing everything in your power to keep them.  If you’re not, then they’re not very strong convictions that you have in the first place.  But then again, maybe that’s the author’s point…

...deep, man.

My advice: develop strong convictions before your twenties, so you care so much about them that you wouldn’t dare betray them.

In any case, what he says next is the reason I chose to address this point all on its own:

You’re going to continue to put yourself in situations that aren’t good for you. And then, slowly but surely, it will become less frequent. It might not ever go away completely but it won’t be as bad.

This is just not true.  This is the lie we tell ourselves over and over again so that we won’t feel as bad for doing whatever we’re doing when we know it’s wrong.  “It’s not like I’ll be doing this forever,” we tell ourselves.  But the fact of the matter is: unless you make the conscious decision to stop, and unless you actually make the effort to stop putting yourself in those situations which you recognize are not good for you, then the only thing that will change is that you’ll stop recognizing that the situation is bad for you.

The author even acknowledges this!  “It [the bad that you’re doing] might not ever completely go away,” he says, “but it won’t be as bad.”  Why won’t it be as bad?  What has changed about the situation other than the fact that you’re now more accustomed to putting yourself in a bad situation?  The truth is that it’s still just as bad as it was when you started.  You’ve just (unfortunately) become accustomed to it.

My advice: You might find yourself choosing to place yourself in situations that are bad for you.  Stop it.  Cut it out right now, or you’ll justify it (and other things that are wrong) for the rest of your life.

And praise God when you feel shame for doing something wrong!  It actually does get you somewhere; that’s the point.  You don’t like feeling shame?  Then stop doing whatever you’re doing that’s making you feel shame.  It’s as simple as that.

It’s a sad place to be in when you do something terrible and don’t feel a drop of guilt for it. But regardless of your feelings, if you know you’ve done something wrong, go to confession and then do whatever you can to avoid doing it again.  Making excuses for yourself is what gets you nowhere (except for into deeper problems).

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.