I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately and all the different kinds of friends and levels of friendship it takes to get by in this world.
My two closest friends could not be more different from each other. One I’ve known since our freshman year in high school. She is my sanity check and the person I go to when I need to think something through. She is the perfect combination of facts and figures, heart and soul. We write verbose emails even though we live in the same town. We share a dark and quirky sense of humor, have a lot of history under our belts and I trust her judgment wholeheartedly.
My other best friend is like my sister. Just walking into the room and seeing her smile makes me feel at ease and gives me a sense of balance. Even if all we’re doing is looking at Pinterest or planning a kid’s birthday party, I know she is my family and tribe. We’ve had plenty of deep conversations but we don’t need them to know what we mean to each other. She’s the person who would help me bury the body, no questions asked.
I have old friends that I don’t see very often and new friendships that are just budding. I’ve made amazing friends through blogging. Work friends, bus stop friends, Facebook friends, they are all vital to my sense of belonging and my need to be a part of a community.
But through it all, these are the types of friends who have shaped me the most.
This is the friend that you go to when you need to vent. She sits quietly, nodding her head at all of your crazy conclusions because she knows you just need to pour your heart out. You don’t want advice or feedback, not yet. You need to get it all out and you know you don’t have to sanitize your story for her. You trust her to not judge or criticize because she trusts you to ultimately do what’s right, make healthy decisions and not bury your head in the sand. Sometimes, venting is all you need to get back on your path. And sometimes, this talk leads to Friend B.
This is the friend you go to when you need a serious sanity check, when your thoughts are so muddled and confused that you don’t know which end is up. Maybe you’re heartbroken or righteously pissed off. Circumstances and choices have either brought you down or kept you down and you need help. This friend knows that you need a brainstorming session, good advice and honest feedback. This friend is firmly on your side and will not leave your side but depending on how open you are to hearing painful feedback, you may need Friend C.
This friend sees you struggling, even when you think you’re doing a great job at hiding your pain. She worries for you and sees a big picture that you are blind to. This friend is in a tough predicament. She’s been letting you vent but sees that it’s just leading you in circles. Even though you haven’t asked for feedback or advice, she decides to take a big risk and confront you on what she sees. She chances facing your anger, being cut off by you, and risks you pushing her away because she’s that concerned for your health and/or safety.
No one does friendship perfectly. While Friend A is listening to you vent, she may be judging you in her head. Friend B is probably really attached to the outcome of your story and may have a hard time if you don’t take her advice. Friend C will invariably push too hard in her quest to help you.
New friendships are hard because trust isn’t built overnight and it’s easy to misjudge a person’s comfort zone.
Old friendships have their own challenges because we may not always give our friend the room they need to grow.
I was recently Friend C and it didn’t go the way I’d hoped. What was intended as a gentle suggestion that acknowledging her personal issues would help her deal with other issues came off as judgment and criticism. That’s why being Friend C is so risky. We may think that a friend is ready to confront their demons when they’re not even ready to admit they have any. I’ve been in that position so I get it but I’m grateful for the friends who have pushed through my resistance and planted a seed of knowledge that I could choose to nurture and grow.
So, when my efforts to be a good Friend C failed, I went to Friend B for advice. And I will be venting to Friend A about it all soon. Sometimes friendship is a tightrope and sometimes it’s a net.