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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are they really your friends?

Over the past year and a half, I've found myself looking very closely at the people I choose to be surrounded by. Gradually my list of "friends" has decreased to a staggering number with some relationships holding on by a thin thread. Now I must give the disclaimer that I hate talking on the telephone and I equally hate ignorance so that could be a huge factor in why I choose to let some friendships go. I'm the type of person who doesn't talk much and/or open up to new people easily, (Shocking . . . I know) so how I make so many new "friend" is beyond me.

As a teen, I quickly realized that my friendship to others sometimes meant what I could give them; provide for them. My family was never wealthy, but the amount of "stuff" we possessed drew people in from left and right. I would constantly receive random phone calls asking to borrow this or that or when going out to dinner with a group, someone would inevitably joke that I should pay the bill. Those attitudes disgusted me then and continue to equally enrage me now.

Taking a step back, I began looking at my list of so-called friends and slowly noticed this pattern was emerging again. Not so much with friends I knew from high school, but in new relationships which leads me to my first point:

1. A friend is not someone who expects you to pay the bill, let them borrow things constantly, or expects you to provide them with stuff simply because you can. In short, a true friend expects nothing of you but your friendship.

I know this may be hard to believe, but it's true. I spoke to my younger siblings about this topic recently and they both agreed that people in general should surround themselves with others who are like them. Those who as they put it "are on the same level," and don't make you feel guilty because you have more. The funny part is that you may have more because you work harder, make better decisions, and know how to spend your money and time wisely which brings me to my next point:

2. A friend doesn't make you feel guilty for what you have. Instead, they rejoice with you for your blessings and continually want the best for you.

Sometimes in friendship, it's not about the money at all; sometimes the friendship itself is shallow. I'll give you an example. I was friends with a certain young woman for many years; fifteen to be exact. We went through middle school and high school together and continued our friendship even after I went off to college. I considered her to be one of my best friends who I loved with all my heart. I helped her through difficult situation as did she and constantly motivated her to do more and to want more for herself. It wasn't until last year that the shallowness of our relationship hit me. After fifteen years, I knew absolutely nothing about her. I knew her family on the surface, but as I think about it, I don't even know her mother's first name. It was a friendship that was one way. She knew about me and everything that went on in my life, but I knew very little about her. In fact, her sister became pregnant (one family member I knew remotely well) and she never even mentioned it. Point number three:

3. Friendships aren't shallow or surface. A true friend shares their life with you, not matter how deep and dark it might be. In a friendship there's no need to be perfect. A friendship is a bond of trust; trust that you can talk openly, trust that you wont be judged, and trust that they will keep your secrets.

There's so many other points I want to share with you but I think this maybe one of the most important ones so I'm going to give it to you first.

4. A friendship is not a competition and no one person in the relationship is the boss of the other. No matter what the age difference!

This is a situation I see a lot. Not only in my relationships, but in those of others. Time and time again, the "I'm older than you so therefore I'm wiser," attitude rears its ugly head. To me, just because someone's older than you doesn't give them the right to boss you around and constantly challenge what you say.

I had a friend that I met that I truly adored. She was bubbly and honestly said everything I was thinking. It was like we were truly the same person. As our friendship progressed, I couldn't help but feel this nagging feeling that we were in competition. It was the strangest thing to me because I had never felt that with any of my other friends. She would make comments about how my car was too expensive, would always ask if my outfit were new, and would just generally challenge me on issues that weren't of any concern to her. It truly baffled me how we could go from being such great friends to feeling like I was in a competition. In a real friendship, there's absolutely no need to feel intimidated or compete with each other. It shows a lack of confidence and probably means you shouldn't be in that relationship.

While I could go on and on, I hope some of these things will make you examine your relationships a little closer. Below are two lists of what friendship is and isn't. I hope you'll take the time to read over them and evaluate your "friendships."

Friendship is:

Equality, Rejuvenating, Open, Trusting, Joyful, Loving, Exciting, Motivating, Happiness, Deep, Life-Sharing, Giving, and Caring.

Friendship is not:

Competitive, Draining, Shallow, Surface, Boring, Constricting, Guilt, Judgmental, Jealous, Hurtful, Demeaning, or Selfish.