A friend accepts us as we are yet helps us to be what we should.
A “new-ish” friend recently paid me a very high compliment that caused me to reflect on my belief about friendships. She wrote:
“I want to thank you for challenging me on my decisions over the past year. By asking me “why” so often, you really helped me be mindful about what I was doing. Most friends just kinda pat you on the head and tell you to soldier on or whatever, but you are one of a select few who made me be careful, which is actually better in the long run.”
No doubt, I AM the self-ordained Queen of Questions. Always have been. If I only had a dime for every time I have started a sentence with “Now here’s an interesting question …” ahh, well what a rich woman I’d be! I am drawn to “the deep end of the ocean” and I’m simply not content snorkeling around the surface. I want to know the why’s and the how come’s and the what about’s! Like a festering splinter, I can’t just pull it out and let go. I have to go in & dig around, bleed a little and maybe pour some Hydrogen Peroxide on the wound to see what will bubble up.
Beyond my morbid curiosity, I have a sincere belief in asking the hard questions. It is a good thing. None of us should just go forward blindly, and questions have always helped me “double check” my thoughts, clarify my beliefs, guide my path. In that line, the friends I value most have been the ones who have been patently honest with me, those who know both my strengths & (more importantly) my weaknesses and are willing to say, “Hey, I’m not sure about what you’re doing here, are you?” Sometimes their questions have caused a change of course and sometimes they haven’t, but I’ve always been grateful for that pause to reflect. No matter what, I KNEW with every part of my being that they came to me from a place of love, wanting the very best for me. These friends are a true blessing, and the kind I strive to be.
It is because of that belief that long ago I decided I did not want “yes” friends, nor did I intend to be one. You know the type, those people who will say things just because they think that’s what you want to hear? She’s the one you call when you’re irritated with your husband (not that I ever am) and she says, “Yeah, you’re right! He is a jerk!” That’s a “yes” friend. Real friends get you back on track with thoughtful questions: “Do you think maybe he felt …?” “Real” friends help you reframe — or as my Mom says, “let go and get a better hold.”
A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.
I believe that our culture is filled with too much of the “You go, Girl!” mentality. We would rather agree with our friends than risk upsetting the apple cart: what if she gets mad at me, what if I hurt her feelings, what if …” blah, blah. So we opt to just stand there, clenching our fists and propping each other up with the “Yeah-Yeah” crutch, even when it’s NOT in our best interest to do so.
Of course, I do believe a lot of people just think to themselves, “It’s not my business; Who am I to say anything about that,” and so they hold their tongue. But how does that serve? Don’t we want the very best for our friends? Isn’t that the real question of friendship?
Side Note: Let me just say that I do think it is important to respect the intimate boundaries of delving deep. I am all too aware that’s a threshold I frequently breech & needs to be checked at the door. (“Ganesha, Ganesha, where for art thou?”) Perhaps the key is in the languaging – come in Judith Lasater, come in! Perhaps we could employ her strategy in these critical moments: “Are you willing to hear some feedback?”
And then — oh yeah — RESPECT whatever answer comes our way.
One final thought … Not EVERYONE is worth airtime. There are those with their own agendas so it’s always important to discern who’s who before taking in their opinions. But then that’s another post.