Perhaps a blog about self-directed learning, entrepreneurship, success principles, service to the community, and financial literacy is a strange place for a post about friendship to land…except that I believe it’s your own sense of “connectedness” to other people that make this crazy journey we call life all worthwhile. It doesn’t matter whether you learn the knowledge and skills you need to learn in order to be successful…it doesn’t matter whether you build a multi-billion dollar enterprise…it doesn’t matter if you invest hours into personal development…it doesn’t matter if you dole out soup to hundreds of homeless people every month…it doesn’t matter if your investments are solid…None of that matters if you don’t have anyone to love and to love you back.
I place a premium on my friendships. I think – I hope – that all of my good friends would say that about me. I’m very intentional about investing in my own friendships, and I’ve been equally intentional about helping my kids to find and foster strong, emotionally intimate relationships with peers. We talk about what it means to have and to be a good friend.
I’ve been, really, very richly blessed by all of the friends I have in my life. They are truly a remarkable bunch of women (and a few men). From the four women who have known me the longest, who know me the best and still love me anyway, I have learned four valuable lessons that I hope my kids have internalized as well.
Be that “3AM” Friend
Jennifer has never, not once, ever, let me down when I needed her. Even when I’ve needed her at the most inconvenient times – like in the wee hours of the mornings on holidays in 1998 and in 2001, when my son and oldest daughter were born. She was there, both times. The first time with a 2 1/2-month old, and the second time 7 months pregnant herself. Like when she was in the midst of a divorce and I’d just suffered a traumatic miscarriage.
I aim to be that sort of friend, and I am raising my kids to be those kinds of friends. The one who’s willing to go above and beyond for someone else. The one who’s willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of someone else. The one who will answer the phone at 3AM and get in the car and start driving right then if she needs to.
Be that Soft Place to Land
I would not have made it through the last decade without Alice. She has been, unfailingly so, my soft place to land. After that traumatic miscarriage, Alice, who was then pregnant herself, stayed – when nearly every other one of my pregnant friends walked away. She has stood by my side and helped prop me up through every single one of the worst moments of my life, and she has let me do the same for her.
I aim to be that sort of friend, and I am raising my kids to be those kinds of friends. The one who stays when everyone else is leaving. The one who doesn’t flinch when her hurting friend lashes out. The one who cries with her hurting friend. The one who says, over and over, to her struggling friend, “You’ve got this” – even when her friend doesn’t believe it.
Be Willing to Have Difficult Conversations and Confrontation
Melanie will tell me the truth. Always. She will tell me the truth as she sees it, even when she knows it’s not what I want to hear. When I let her down, she doesn’t nurse her hurt feelings and let small trangressions fester and grow into enormous ones. She cares about our friendship enough to boldly, but kindly, fight for it.
I aim to be that sort of friend, and I am raising my kids to be those kinds of friends. The one who doesn’t lie to her friends. The one who loves her friends enough to tell them what they need to hear, even if it’s painful. The one who’s secure enough in the friendship that she can disagree, even loudly, and still love and know that she’s loved.
More than anyone else I know, Danielle embodies grace, humility, and forgiveness. During a particularly bad time in my late teens, looking to get away from everyone and everything that reminded me of my hometown, I did one of the worst things I think one friend can do to another. I walked away, without a word. No explanation. No closure. And I stayed away, for nearly four years. When I came to my senses again, when I realized how badly I missed her, and how awful I’d been, I came to her with the most sincere, heartfelt apology I could give. I didn’t expect her to forgive me. She welcomed me back like the father welcomed the prodigal son. I was simply blown away.
Now I aim to be that sort of friend, and I am raising my kids to be those kinds of friends. The one who doesn’t expect her friends to never hurt her and never let her down. The one who realizes that there may be things going on in her friend’s life that she knows nothing about, and is therefore able to extend grace and mercy. The one who tries not to take every offense so personally. The one who forgives freely.
Thanks, ladies, for the powerful lessons in friendship. Your inspiration will live on in my friendships with others, and in my kids’ friendships as well.