The Art of Being a Good Friend

Do you remember your first best friend? The person with whom you promised, with as much solemnity as you could muster, to be best friends with forever (and ever, and ever)? This person may or may not still be a part of your life, but you must remember how serious this promise was at the time. These promises were the child-like equivalent of the cheesy “for better or for worse” vows repeated at weddings. Unfortunately, as we have all learned through the years, life is a lot more complicated than a pinky promise, and people grow up and apart. However, while it is inevitable that some friendships will not stand the test of time, there is something to be said about that child-like desire to maintain friendships “forever” that often vanishes when we grow up.

Black and white image of 4 women laughing and holding onto each other Pexels / Hannah Nelson

The Issues with Modern Friendship

As an adult in today’s society, friendships, though valued, may not be given the attention and weight that they really deserve. I’ve written about this phenomenon before, but the positive aspects of friendship such as a sense of belonging, happiness, and love are too often attributed as solely (or at least most significantly) coming from a romantic partner. Society places such emphasis on romantic attraction that it leaves very little room for the other types of relationships that make life full and bright.

The other major issue that plagues seems to plague modern friendships is a certain level of selfishness. Some of the most common advice I have seen lately regarding friendships make it sound like the point in having a friend is solely about what they can do for you. I cannot tell you how many times I have read that it is not worth maintaining a friendship if you don’t feel like their presence is somehow pushing you towards your goal. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it is no one’s job besides your own to get you where you want to be in life. Yes, a good friendship involves a give and take from both parties in a way that helps each individual to reach their full potential, however, if you are expecting your friends to be an endless well for your own personal gain and growth, I’m afraid you may actually be the toxic friend in your circle. Speaking of toxicity, an over-simplistic view of the concept may actually be harming our relationships. While no one should ever stay in a relationship (platonic or otherwise) that hurts them, there seems to be this idea that there are two categories in which people can be placed: toxic and non-toxic. While some people will tell you that the first sign of toxic behavior is a signal to run screaming, I think, depending on how well you know the person, toxic behavior can pave the way to a moment of evaluation and communication. If you know this person well, and they do not have a history of toxicity, you may find that it is worth waiting out the storm so to speak. Let’s face it, nobody is perfect, and I guarantee that we have all been the dreaded “toxic person” in a friendship at one point or another. The bottom line is that friendships, just like romantic relationships take work, and we have to recognize that every moment is not going to be fun.

 

Showing Your Friends You Care

thank you note with pen, gift, cookies, and flowers Pexels / Giftpundits.com

As I said above, it takes a lot of work to keep a friendship healthy and thriving, however the main thing you can do to maintain friendships is to simply show your friends how much they mean to you. The great thing about this is that there are many ways to do this. The first, and most direct way, is to simply make it a point to tell your friends how much they mean to you, or when times are difficult, that you are there for support. It can also be helpful when expressing these kinds of sentiments to write them down in letter form. There is something particularly heartfelt and touching about receiving a handwritten letter. As an added bonus, it is much easier to collect your thoughts and say everything you want to in a letter. Another way to show your friends that you care (if words aren’t your thing) is to show your affection through action. Nothing shows that you care more than being in touch enough to understand how to make someone’s life a little easier.

While we all know that relationships and the world are far more complicated than we could have understood as a young child, having healthy friendships makes the world a little less confusing.