As we celebrate friendship month, I decided to examine the question, “Am I a good friend?” Interestingly, before I could tackle the question of am I a good friend to others, I asked myself, “Am I a good friend to me?”
I started with myself because in my mind there’s no way you can be a good friend to others if you are not a friend to you first. And here’s how you do it…” Love your neighbor as yourself,” Matthew 22:39, NLT.
This means you must love, care, respect and be truthful and accepting of yourself at your lowest, highest and even the “in between” points in your life. I happen to think being a friend during the “in between” points is the hardest, because the “in between” is where we get caught up in the routine and frenetic pace of living and often forget to be a friend. Day to day, everything is hurried but even keel, and we fall into the robotics of friendship and not paying attention because there is nothing exciting or tragic that needs our urgent response. It is often during this time we neglect ourselves and our friends.
“A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil, but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls, and small silly presents every so often – just to save it from drying out completely,” says author Pam Brown. I believe this to be true, not only with our true circle of friends, but with ourselves as well.
That’s why I make it a point to check in with myself, my spirit, just like I would a friend, in the form of prayer, meditation, a self-mailed card or a chat over coffee. And no, I don’t actually verbally talk and respond to myself over coffee (although I have been known to have some conversations in my head…LOL…thankfully, thought bubbles are not for real…because oh, if those thought bubbles could talk!) I journal my thoughts and feelings with paper and pen. Yes, the old fashioned way!
I also believe that really being a friend is about making appreciation and gratitude a part of your everyday routine. Be appreciative of all the good things that you have, have done, and are doing. Doing so will help you to be appreciative of God, others and the small acts of kindness or selfless sacrifices they make for you.
You see, it takes a great amount of appreciation, acceptance and patience to be a good friend to yourself and to your actual friends in good and bad times, but it starts with the “in between” times.
Interestingly, the older I have gotten, the more my friendship circle has changed. I like to think it has become stronger, richer, more authentic and genuine as I have grown more into my true self and focused more on really being a friend.
Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” God is my best friend. He continuously brings out the best in me through the test and trials of my character. In relationships and friendships, He challenges me to grow and continues to shape me into the masterpiece He intended. So when choosing that close inner circle of friends, I am careful to examine the true character of my friends rather than be swept up in the charm and charisma of a person’s representative and their temporary and fleeting loyalty.
A lesson I have painfully learned over the years is that some people are all sparkly and shiny on the outside, but only an inch deep in character. They are what I call “groupie friends.” They are only good for when you are riding high and things are great, but nowhere to be found in the low moments of life. When the food runs out, the drinks stop flowing and the music stops playing, they move on to the next party and never look back. They don’t even ask if you want to go or need a ride. These are the so called friends who really just take up space but add no real value.
Oprah says, “lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Now, I am not a bus kind of girl…so I definitely need that “keep it real” friend who is going to say, “Let’s take the bus and keep it movin’. That $5 bus pass will get us to the airport. We are not missing our flight to our next great adventure because of a minor set back.”
Over the years, I’ve learned to invest in me by investing in my “bus friends” who invest in me. Friends who help me grow, who sharpen me, who rekindle the life and creativity in me, who believe in me, who love and accept me. “In everyone’s life, at sometime, our inner fire goes out. It is then we burst into flames by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit,” Albert Schweitzer said.
Over the years, through high school, college, work, leadership forums and creative classes, I have been blessed with such flame-bursting encounters with “fire starters” I now consider my close inner circle friends. God brought these friends into my life at various points to rekindle my inner spirit and to participate in the development and elevation of my character.
Shout out to all of my “fire starters,” you know who you are. I love and appreciate each of you! And I pray, that in trying to be a good friend to myself, that I have in turn been a good friend to each of you, not only when you’ve needed it the most, but during the “in between”.