There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate. – Linda Grayson
Friendship, at its best, is a gift. American philosopher Elbert Hubbard described it well when he said: “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you”. When we experience that depth of love and acceptance it can lead to lifelong, not to mention life-affirming, friendships. On the other hand, there are few things that hurt more deeply than when someone we counted as a friend betrays our trust or reveals they are in fact only friends with us because of selfish motives; the friendship we held so dear is reduced to a transaction.
Over the past few months I have been thinking a lot about my friendships. I had been encouraged by my mentor to make a chart of those I considered my friend; to map my feeling of closeness to each person on a series of outward moving circles, with me at the centre. The result was illuminating. Not only was I given a whole new appreciation for those who were in the inner circle and the reasons they were there; I saw that people who in my head were friends were located two or three circles out. With some of them I hadn’t even realised that over time the relationship had changed. It was only when I examined my friendships and had to quantify them in some way that I consciously started something of a friendship “audit”. It sounds cold-blooded, but actually it was incredibly helpful.
Even in the age of instant Facebook “un-friending” we can often find it nearly impossible to “break up” with a friend.
Auditing my friendship circles has shown me where to invest my time and energy well, where to simply allow a friendship to dawdle along and, most importantly, where to actively draw stronger boundaries between me and a friendship that had turned stale or toxic and hurtful. It’s that last category that is the most difficult for me and I don’t think I’m alone in that. All of us deal with friendships that go through difficult patches and in some cases become damaging to one or both parties. But even in the age of instant Facebook “un-friending” we can often find it nearly impossible to “break up” with a friend. When it comes to romantic relationships the rules are clear enough: if its toxic/over/not working out then you end it with as much dignity as possible and you walk away. Don’t have contact. Move on and hope you’ll find love with another.
In friendship the rules don’t seem so clear cut, but they can be. In the same way we hopefully won’t stay in a romantic relationship with someone who is a bully, or who always takes and never gives, or who abuses us or puts us down, we don’t have to stay in a friendship where similar things are taking place. Friendship is about love, respect and honesty. Without those things on both sides, it no longer works. Great friendship helps us become our best selves, without judgment. We often feel we have less choice about who our friends are than we would in a dating or marriage scenario. But this isn’t true. We can choose our friends. After all, shouldn’t we get to decide who we do life with in love and friendship?
Taken from the Autumn 2016 edition of Liberti available from the App store
Avatars by Sterling Adventures