What Is Your Definition of Friendship?
I've been thinking a lot about friendship and how much those closest to me, including my family members, help add joy and happiness to my life as well as help shape who I am. The quote: "You are the company you keep" encourages us to be deliberate in how we define and choose our friends. And on the flip side, it reminds us that being good company is just as important as seeking it.
Characteristics of a Friend
So much of friendship for me comes down to values. I love Wikipedia's definition of friendship:
The value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following on a consistent basis:
- Desire what is best for the other
- Sympathy and empathy
- Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one's counterpart
- Mutual understanding and compassion
- Trust in one another; ability to go to each other for emotional support"
What characteristics and values are most important to you in a friend?
For me, I'd add integrity to this list as well, because while people may have these values, the most important thing is their desire and effort to live in accordance with them.
Tips to Being a Good Friend
While keeping great company helps define us, it is only one half of the friendship equation. We also need to be great company for others in return. Here's a few ways to be a good friend:
- Uplift Your Friends
- Love Others for Who They Are
- Serve Your Friends How They Want to Be Served
- Apologize and Change
Uplift Your Friends
Relationships need to be mutually beneficial and one of the best ways for people to benefit is when they are uplifted by another individual. Actions that are often uplifting include: validating, affirming, looking out and sticking up for, taking care of, being loyal to, trusting and being honest with, and being there for others.
When I think of uplifting friends, they are those that I have on speed dial. I can call them any time—for a good laugh, to share some news, when I'm having a tough day, or when I need a pick-me-up. They are my peeps—those that get me and in essence, make me a better me!
Love Others for Who They Are
The lens through which we see the world and the belief systems we cling to shape most of our perspectives. As I look at the company I keep, I am increasingly amazed and in awe at the diverse personality types, skills, attributes, and talents those closest to me bring to the table. As they help me see things through their lens, it changes my outlook, adding color, beauty, and clarity to the world around me.
Trying to force others to be more like you or only choosing friends who are your same type is limiting. Adversely, choosing friendships based on values instead of personality types and learning to love people for who they are enhances your experiences.
Serve Your Friends How They Want to Be Served
Service is a great way to show love in any relationship.
I wrote a post once about how to raise giving children. In it, I promoted the concept of doing unto others as they need you to do unto them and not "as you'd like done unto you."
I've had many opportunities to be the recipient of service in my life. After one surgery, I was flat on my back in bed for 6 weeks. I discovered the way in which I needed to be served when a friend came to visit. She brought Yahtzee, magazines, treats, and spent 2 hours with me chatting, playing games, and just hanging out. I was in so much pain and so happy all at the same time. I learned that when I am out for the count, the biggest gift someone can give me is time. Just be with me.
Books like the 5 Love Languages are great at helping you figure out ways in which you want to be loved and served as well as helping you notice what your friends' needs may be. The catch is that sometimes it is tough to figure out how others want to be served. And sometimes, they don't even know. But, paying attention or trying a variety of things to see what works best and doing those things helps you meet their needs best.
Apologize and Change
Friendships grow and change and need to be strengthened like any other relationship. The goal is to create positive experiences, be there for each other, and have the relationship be mutually beneficial. If you veer off the path of being a great friend, apologize and change. It takes a second to offer a sincere apology. It may take months to change your behavior. But it is nearly impossible to replace a fabulous friendship. The time required to apologize and change is a drop in the bucket compared to the time it took to create all the amazing memories.
Evaluate your friendships and ask yourself:
- If you are the company you keep, who are you? And, is that the person you want to be?
- If your friends are the company they keep, who are they? And, are they a better person because you are in their lives?
- What is one thing you can do this week to be a better friend?