Last week’s article, How do I Move Forward From a Broken Friendship? generated some interesting discussions with our readers. Pat shares, “Friendships have changed, slowed, distanced, churned. However, I don’t remember one ending. At least not a true friendship.”
True friendship, what does that look like? In my own experience the definition of a true friend has evolved over time. As a child, I remember needing the assurance that someone was my friend. We would declare it and make promises to each other. The need to have my very own someone—a friend I could trust with my secrets and depend on for support—was part of my makeup from the very beginning. Over time, those friendships changed. Some changes came with great pain and disappointment, perhaps they broke my trust or chose to move on to someone else. It’s clear that for a season, I considered them a true friend—until they weren’t. I learned, there are many faces of friendship.
What then defines a true friend? Are they to last forever?
The acronym BFF (Best Friends Forever) surfaced in the late 90s. It became a quick way for friends to sign off and express their positive feelings for one another while instant-messaging (IM-ing) on the computer or sending a text message on cell phones. I wonder, is there a difference then between a BF and a BFF? Are some best friends only to stay with us for a season while the true BFF lasts a lifetime?
Who makes up the rules on friendship? My answer: Each of us defines friendship according to our individual needs and based on our life lessons learned.
What expectations are you carrying into your friendships?
My childhood friendship lessons-learned shaped my expectations into adulthood. One experience built upon another, and over time I’ve arrived at what matters most to me in a BF.
My lessons learned:
Each person arrives at a friendship with their own definition of a best friend. Often, there is an assumption that the other has the same needs and wants. Learning to accept each other—what we have in common as well as our differences—makes for a healthy relationship.
Culture affects our expectations. In my Cuban culture if someone is sick in the hospital, we all show up to that waiting room. I remember a time when my husband was 15 days into his hospital stay. On what should have been the last day, a nurse’s error caused them to delay his discharge. Quite frankly, I lost it emotionally. I called my friend Ana—she was there in minutes. I knew who to call. Some who loved me just as much, might not have come. But Ana… I knew she would be there.
Common interests typically bring us together. College roommates stay strong in their friendship during those four years, but life may take them in different directions once graduated.
Life challenges also bring us together—we share the same heartache and struggles. We are there for each other… until our needs change. I’ve personally experienced the friendship loss after a divorce. People struggle with their perceived need to take sides. Instead of being there to support the couple during the life crisis, they choose to distance themselves. I get it now, but, it was very painful then.
I learned that I couldn’t “keep” friends, instead, I held them loosely during the season when we both needed and were there to nurture each other. Each friend has brought a special gift into my life to fill that need at that time. Thankfully, I’ve known who to share what with. Take note: Not everyone is meant to fill our every need. Admittedly, I’ve made some mistakes over time. I’ve leaned on a friendship with a need they were not equipped to handle. That only led to heartache. They were just not that gal or guy for me at that time. Experience has taught me to honor and accept them for who they are and not for what I would like them to be.
Love anyway. There are also those times when we are to be there for someone else—knowing full well they would not do the same for us. It’s called love, kindness, compassion, mercy… For those of us who walk by faith in Jesus, we love with the love He first gave us. His love never fails, and we lean into that love to love the unlovable. Someone recently asked me, why do I keep getting hurt with the same relationship? God brings us the unlovable to teach us how to love. Jesus loved us while we were still unlovable. Our experiences bring us closer and closer to His perfect love.
Let’s stay connected. Friendships play a very important part in our life story. I’ve only skimmed the surface of this topic. I’ll be writing more about it in the weeks to come. In the meantime, if you have a specific question, please email me at CoachMaggie@calledtoaction.com. If you don’t mind and to help others as well, I’ll share your questions/comments and my response. We are better together!