Will they stand their ground? Will they let you down? Of course, all friends will do both. The real question is what about your friends, are they good for you?
“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the best version of ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves.” ~ Matthew Kelly from ‘The Rhythm of Life’
Sooooo, the saying quality over quantity couldn’t be a more poignantly applicable expression pertaining to friendships. Being a hyper-social person I all too often rated the quality of my current life experience by the number of people that were texting me in a day and how many hugs and hi-fives I got when I walked into the bar. Quite frankly, that was my goal, I wanted to be an entity not just an attendee. To accomplish this I was at every bar all the time, bought shots for people (at times, the entire bar), and made myself approachably visible while trying to better everyone’s experience. The byproduct, I met the entire town.
Socially this was great! I knew all the other social powerhouses, I was always apart of every social function (of stature), and people knew me. Because I was socially eclectic I would hang out with anyone and in doing so met so many amazing people. I always had someone to shoot the shit with and that’s all I/we did, shoot the shit.
I utilized people (typically via the bar) to avoid dealing with anything less than optimal in my life. It worked until whatever situation couldn’t be avoided anymore and then I’d scramble to finally resolve it, but more commonly, get it back to avoidable. Whatever the situation, the suggestion was let’s go grab a beer and talk about it. Nothing really wrong there accept by the time the issue was expressed, we were plenty tipsy and solutions never got discussed. This avoidance method subtly became standard operating procedure rendering me pretty much oblivious to the fact that I wasn’t moving forward.
When I started getting my life together, my relationships had to be re-analyzed. Who all was in my life, why, and most importantly, are they conducive to my growth? Sadly to say, a vast majority of the people in my life were not good for me. Quitting drinking shed a lot those people very quickly. But just not drinking didn’t resolve the convoluted necessity to have people around to validate my worth. I had to assess why I didn’t feel like enough as an individual; root causes and conditions (to avoid making this the longest post ever I’ll address those more specifically in another post at another time).
As I uncovered and discovered my issues it started to expose the various voids I was filling and why. As I addressed them, the type of people I wanted and actually needed in my life began to align. I am very much still in the filtering process of friends but the criteria is so much more clear.
One-sided friendships have zero value. I have met people and connected with them but the connection was in the moment and that’s where it’s value lied...in that moment. As time went on I would reach out for that connection and it wasn’t returned. With hurt feelings I would form resentments as a result of unmet expectations of reciprocated appreciation. The truth of the matter is simply that I don’t get to determine my worth to anyone. If what I thought I’d found isn’t proving true, the very next step is acceptance of that fact. It is NOT to keep pushing and attempting force a bond that isn’t mutual in hopes that they will eventually see (and essentially validate) my value. Bottom line: If what I’m giving to a friendship I’m not getting from that friendship then it is not a friendship and needs to be regarded as such.
The inadvertent enabling friendships were/are the hardest to filter because they’re so deceptively damaging. The thing about those friendships were that the people were awesome individuals so it’s hard to resolve to separate from them. They valued me just as I valued them and were happy to be present through whatever I went through. Having that kind of loyalty is precious thus why it’s so easy to cling to. They’d stand ever ready with a band-aid for my cut but never able to teach me how use a knife to better prevent the next cut. I had a whole town of people that would help me drink my way through a rough patch (usually a byproduct of my drinking) but a very small circle that would say “Stop drinking and let’s solve this problem.” If I quit drinking then our friendship is no longer viable as that was the tie that bound. Since the friendship wasn’t the direct issue, remedies that would impact the friendship were off the table...inadvertently enabling the behaviors that cause the problems.
Lastly and most importantly are the friends who promote growth. Life is all about progress and comfortable dishonesty is not how I want to live. I want to be the best version of myself and I need people in my life that promote that. Complacency is a cancer that kills and I need the friends that serve as chemo, not hospice. People that chase growth inspire growth and that has to be the standard by which I allow people access to my life. This has no bearing on what I give to others. My obligation as a human is to be of service and help others where and when I can. But if I’m not growing then my efficacy is limited. The people I choose to invest my time in, inspire me. Through their conversations, their accomplishments, and their drive I am motivated to emulate that because I want to experience those joys. Continuing on that path I keep setting myself up for new joys and lessons, growth.
What about my friends? If they don’t share the investment, I let them go and spare myself the disappointment of investment with no return. Realize that everyone that is good to me is not good for me. Getting the most out of life is a constant pursuit and that pursuit has to trump stationary comfort. Friend-UP. Associate with and invest the time in people doing, living, and being in the manner that I want for myself. The best version of myself is an ever evolving thing only attainable through a willingness to sacrifice daily comforts to really experience life and grow from those experiences. Finding and clinging to the people that promote that are the key to authentic happiness.