Sunday, March 29, 2015

Things I Learned by Being a Bad Friend

For a long time, I believed in the type of friendship you often see memes describing. In fact, I found it difficult tonight to find and image for this post which did not say something along the lines of
- A true friend is always there for you, no matter what
- A true friend texts or calls you all the time just to check up on you
- A true friend never gets tired of listening to your problems
- A true friend will never find anything more important than being with you
- A true friend will drop everything to be with you
- And... the list goes on

And, these are all partially true. Usually. Sometimes. But I have learned that believing solely in those statements leads to me being a pretty selfish friend.

Here are the top 7 things I learned by being a bad friend...

1) I am not all-important

I had a friend who lived just a block away from me. I knew he'd always be there for me. And then he informs me he's moving to another state. How dare he? Obviously, our friendship meant nothing to him...

It took a lot of patience from him, and meanness from me, before I finally figured out that being a true friend does not mean you always put the other person first. Even the best of friends have other people and things going on in their lives which have to come first.

2) Friends are allowed to leave me

With this friend moving away, I knew that had to mean the friendship was over. I couldn't just walk down the road to see this person. He was leaving... abandoning me. I was angry and hurt.

But, I have since learned that friendship does not end because miles are placed between two people. True friendship isn't about proximity.

3) Friends have personal needs that do not include me

I'd be in need of a friend, and would email or text one. And would be told he's tired, or busy, or otherwise just wasn't in the mood to talk. How selfish could one person be? Why would he choose being alone when I obviously missed him? It was angering. Obviously I was a much better friend than he.

And then I realized that I was actually the selfish one. I was demanding time without considering that maybe, just maybe, he had personal needs that didn't include me, and did not need to include me. True friends recognize this, and instead of getting hurt and angry, should be supportive and give the other person the space they need.

4) Friends don't need to talk to me 24/7

"True friends will call/text often just to see how you're doing."I have heard that so many times. Apparently, it's not true. Of course, I did not believe this for a long time. I would do that to people... and couldn't understand why I started getting just short answers (or ignored).

Real friendship actually survives without the constant texting/calling. I have learned that personally, I can go days or even weeks without having a friend text me, and I still love that friend just as much, if not more. When you feel slighted because a friend doesn't call or text every day... you might want to take a look why you're so insecure.

5) My problems are my own responsibility

I remember a few times, having what I considered to be very serious problems. And when my friend wouldn't give me advice on how to fix it, or wouldn't take the problem as seriously as I did, or wouldn't drop everything and realize just how important this issue was... I'd be upset with him... to the point of not recognizing all the good he did do for me just by listening when he was able.

Yes, friends generally try to be there to offer support when you're going through a rough patch. But they can't fix them for you. And they cannot take the problem onto their own shoulders and treat it with the same severity as you do.

6) Sometimes, I am not enough

Have you ever found out that a friend is going through a tough time... and found out that he/she didn't turn to you for help, but rather sought help from someone else? It would make me feel like I'm not enough - like this person obviously doesn't think highly enough about me, or trust me enough, to help...

Wow, how selfish of a thought. I'm taking it personally and getting hurt and upset, when what my friend really needs is my support and understanding. I cannot always be "enough". Sometimes, people do need help from other sources. This is not a reflection of our friendship. Even in the strongest friendships people sometimes need something/someone else.

7) I do not need to be the only friend

Have you ever found out that a friend went out with other friends? He/she did something with another person without inviting you? I'd be hurt and angry and jealous and feel betrayed. I'm the best friend he/she could want.

Again, how selfish can I be? If we try to limit other people's friendships, assuming it always has to be "me and only me", we limit the number of people this other person could touch. Now, I want my friends to have tons of other friends. I want them to be there for other people. I recognize that there is a reason I love them - it's because of how great they are and how much they do for me, and I want them to show that to, and share that with, others.

Stop the selfishness!

We need to all learn to stop being selfish friends. We cannot expect our friends to be there every time we need them. We cannot be so insecure that we can't go a day without visiting or contacting them. We need to recognize we are not the only person in our friend's life, and be grateful for that. I'm not saying I've got it all together. I'm not saying I'm a great friend. I'm still a bad friend a lot of the time. But luckily, I have great friends who are willing to forgive me. :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. Certainly tough love hearing that. I think a lot of my problems in friendship comes from fear and insecurity. If we're not in constant contact isn't the relationship deteriorating? And if my friend has other friends, won't they prefer the other friends to me and discard me? I can't let friendship flow naturally, I'm always scared that I'm losing everybody and that I'm not going to get my needs met. I guess changing means relaxing my grip on people. Not sure I can do that. Thanks for writing this.