3 Ways To Be A Better Friend
Childhood friendships were sacred. We loved our friends with a ferocity that was unmatched by anything we could think of. When a friend moved away it was the end of our world, no matter how brief that end may have lasted. So why is it that as we age, our friendships begin to matter less and less?
I would imagine one of the reasons is that as we age, we become capable of hurting each other much deeper than when we called each other “meany face” on the playground. We begin to look out for our own interests and when that happens we start to hurt each other. We say hurtful things to make ourselves feel better, and we shrug off friends we think can’t help us anymore.
As adults, we sometimes find that we carry the pain of past friendship mistakes and we begin to build walls. We build walls around ourselves, our marriages and our kids until we convince ourselves we don’t really need friends anymore. But the truth is…
We need friends for those moments when we feel like horrible parents, even if it’s just for reassurance that they fed their kids ice-cream and chocolate for dinner last night. We need friends for the times when our spouses make us crazy, so they can talk us off the ledge and remind us of all the wonderful reasons we had to marry our spouses in the first place.
So how can we be better friends? What can we do to make sure those people we held so sacred at 7 are still there for us at 97? Here are a few ideas.
1. Schedule Time
We are all busy. Our kids have sports, music, church, and we have civic organizations, councils and board meetings to go to. Time is valuable, and so are our friends, so make time for them. Schedule it in your online planners, purse calendars, and fridge calendars. Invite them to bring their kids over and play while you sit and catch up. Ask them to come out for ice-cream with you after the soccer game and talk a while. Or make time to go away for a whole weekend, and spend some real-time with them. Because we all have very busy schedules, making time for friends communicates they are a priority in your life. Just make sure you schedule that time frequently, and not only when you need something.
I’m a great talker. I could talk to a brick wall and not get tired of it, and sometimes I’m challenged to truly listen to people without thinking about what anecdote I’m about to use in my response. Sometimes we need to unload on our friends, but if all we do is unload and we never receive the load off of our friend’s shoulders, then we become pretty awful friends. If your time with your friend is limited be conscious of it, set a timer, tell your friend you want to make sure you really need to vent your feelings about something, but you want to make sure you listen to her as well. This communicates that you value your friend’s presence as a listening ear, but you also want to be that ear for her too.
3. Honor Your Commitments
One of the best things you can do as a friend is to do what you say you’ll do. This sounds easier than it is, but if you are a people “pleaser” you tend to over-commit. You say yes to every fundraiser, committee and person who needs your help, and all of a sudden your friend is sitting at Starbucks while you are at your kid’s bake sale, and you forgot to tell her. Don’t feel the need to say yes to everything, let your yes be yes, and your no be no, but when it comes to your friends let your “no” be followed by a suggestion of another time or place to spend some quality time together. It’s okay to turn down invitations to coffee and lunch, but be prepared with that schedule of yours to suggest another time and make sure you honor that time together.
One day tragedy will strike our lives. We will lose someone we love, someone we love will leave of their own choosing, or there will be a natural disaster completely out of our control. In those moments we will need our friends, and those relationships require time, attention and honor. Lets bring some of that sacred love back to friendships we had so long ago.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis