January 12th I flip the page on my happier 2017 calendar to a note about friendship. The top of the calendar page read: 3 ways to keep and strengthen friendships. It was a timely message that made me smile as I woke at 5am to pack the last of my things and fly to Scottsburg, IN. I was headed to see my best friend.
These three points belong to Gretchen Rubin but the thoughts are my own. Before we get started I wanted to say that everything I have learned about being a good friend I learned from my Dad and my best friend Candy. Everyone else in my life should be grateful to them.
1. Be wary of false choices. She uses the example of people who say they only want a few quality friendships. Who says you can’t have a few quality friends (or close friends as I think people mean) and also acquaintances? One of my friends I met through work once told me she doesn’t like to make new friends because she just doesn’t have the time and energy to maintain them. Not all friends are needy, are they? I am pretty careful who I get close to. My friend Carrie who grew up the daughter of a Pastor and I recently talked about this as a side effect of having grown up in a rather public family. But I do not make false choices. I can keep only a few really close friendships in which I’m fully transparent and still be inclusive. I also still have friends with whom I share an interest. Book clubs, fellow leaders, and blog friends are great examples.
2. Give your friends a break. I’ll admit this has taken me some time to learn. I am highly driven and I have high expectations of myself and others. Often times I find that my standards are unrealistic and unfair. Gretchen says ‘we all have a lot to juggle in our lives’. Isn’t this true? I’ve never heard my Dad use his grueling professional life as an excuse in friendships but he often can’t be present. He misses a lot of weddings. He didn’t make many of my soccer games or piano recitals as a kid. He didn’t move me into my college dorm. He can’t attend his best friends football games because he’s coaching too. Could they (and I) focus on what he misses? Yes. But the flip side of that is that he does an amazing job at what he is able to do. He’s never too busy. He cares about my stories, he helps me with my budget, and he frequently spends his very early drive to work or very late drive home checking in on his friends lives or one of us girls. We all have a lot to juggle and don’t use that as an excuse – do what you can do, well. But when others can’t do or be all we hope: give your friends a break.
3. Don’t expect friendships to happen spontaneously. I have somewhat mixed feelings on this one. While I think American’s are quick to use ‘friendship’ for what is really just acquaintanceship – I do think you can find your friends spontaneously. So far, I’ve met 4 friends on airplanes because I sat next to them. I’m still in touch, at least semi-regularly with 3 of the 4. I met my best friend selling handbags while we were in college. And my closest guy friend I met when he ‘accidentally’ added my on Facebook because we had so many mutual friends we both assumed we probably knew each other (which explains why I actually confirmed his friendship). A few months later, we were real friends. Friendships DO take time and effort – I’ll be the first to say that. And this increases when you’re in two really different seasons of life. But, not make a mountain out of a molehill either. It’s not THAT hard to find friends.