Friday, June 7, 2013

Who Are Our True Friends?

Today is Friday, June 7, 2013.

In life we never lose friends, we only learn who the true ones are.  –Anonymous

Who are our true friends? 

Our definition of a friend changes with age an experience.  Kids change "best friends" like they change shoes.  Teens and adults tend to start "growing out of" some friends, "growing away from" others, and when you realize that nowadays more people all over the world are much more mobile than their ancestors were, you can see how hard it is to keep friends "forever," or at least, for a whole lifetime.

In one article on friendship, it was noted that David Beckham, a world-famous soccer player, says he has only three true friends.  Of course, he also has his wife and his family, but he says that three friends are enough for him. 

Here are some things that you can reasonably expect from a true friend.  Since it is unrealistic to expect that one or two people can do all of these things, it may be smart to have more than a few friends, but it's also smart to know exactly what you can expect from each one, and what you shouldn't bother to expect. (No blame intended.)   Many of these things are just as true for "Internet friends" as they are for flesh-and-blood friends.

True friends face problems together.  This doesn't necessarily mean they solve the problem together, but it does mean that friends support each other and believe in each other.

True friends make time for each other.  Sometimes this can be done on a regular basis, and sometimes not, depending on how close together the friends live and how busy their lives are.  This doesn't mean that we can expect our friends to give a command performance whenever we like, but it does mean that we should be able to expect our friends to make at least some time to be together every so often.  If a friend finds ways to get off the hook time and time again, it's a red-flag that they are not really a true friend.

True friends keep their promises.  If I promise you I will do something with you and a more exciting offer comes up, I will not cancel on you.  I will tell the second person that I already have plans.  I expect my friends to do the same for me.   True friends are trustworthy.  I know they won't tell my secrets or sell me down the river.

True friends accept each other without wanting or needing to change each other.  This doesn't mean that true friends can't be honest with each other.  True friends do give each other honest feedback or constructive criticism because they really do care, but they accept that their feedback may not be accepted or acted upon.

True friends communicate as clearly as possible with each other, and they listen – really listen – to each other.  They don't expect each other to be a mind reader, and they realize that in order to get their needs met, they may have to be direct.  (It's nice to have a friend who anticipates your needs, but frankly, it's not very realistic to expect the vast majority of people to do that for you.  One friend like this is enough in any lifetime.

True friends are real with each other.  If they are upset with each other, they say so, honestly, but tactfully.  They try to work out issues and compromise when necessary.  They don't pretend to be someone that they are not.  They don't try to impress one another.

True friends are loyal.  Being loyal means taking your friend's side unless it's morally impossible to do so.  Then a true friend is neutral, allowing the other person his or her space.  Sometimes you have to let people fall and be there to pick up the pieces afterwards.

True friends have a healthy give and take, not only in conversation, but in doing things for one another.   True friends don't abuse the other's hospitality or generosity.

True friends have realistic expectations of each other, and they realize that everyone continues to grow and change.  True friends support each other's changes, but they know when it is time to let go and release the other person from obligation when circumstances pull them apart.

Benjamin Franklin wrote, "A friend in need is a friend, indeed."   I never did understand that wording until I learned later in life which of my friends I could count on, and which I could not.  For all of those friends who have truly been there for me, I am incredibly grateful.  :-)

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