Sunday, May 20, 2012

Anatomy of a Friend

Friendship. Easy to recognize, not easy to define. I know what being friendly is, but friendship is completely different - way more complicated. Friendship comes with baggage and expectations and responsibilities. Friendship isn't easy to define because it is different for everyone. There are some basic tenets, to be sure, but for each one of us, it has a little different flavor and in different parts of our lives along the timeline, we have varying degrees of expectations.

The hardest part of being a friend, a truly devoted and dedicated friend, comes when things don't make sense. When the friendship gets hard and you flat out disagree with each other, moving on and shutting down would be so much easier. Like a marriage, if the friendship means something to you, you may be tempted to walk away but instead you take stock of the memories, the kindnesses paid and you buckle down. You wade in rather than run. You stay available even if no one calls. You listen when you would rather talk. You set aside your opinion and you attempt to look through their eyes. Standing ready is a difficult, unrewarding station and it's lonely.

I think about the friendships in my life that matter, the ones that I cling to when thoughts from my past call me wretched and undeserving. They have one thing in common. They don't budge from who they are to please me and my mood. I wouldn't have it any other way. These ladies stand strong. They won't bend to my will because I look scary or ready to cry if they wade in. They tell it like it is and if I am being a brat or have a wrong attitude, they tell me so. They aren't afraid of what I might do or say in response. It is pretty freaking awesome even when it is a colossal pain in the ass! We don't always like the things our friends call out about us, but if we trust them - if they have earned the right to love us - then we know it is because they care who we are becoming.

Real friendship doesn't lie to you. It doesn't let you get away with lying to yourself. Real friends will call you out and make you face your fears, your avoided issues and your defensiveness. Real friends care when they see you shut the door on your life. Real friends don't run.

Being a friend is the hardest thing I have ever done. In some ways being married is easier (did I actually say that??) because you have rituals and expectations that keep you there. With a friendship, there is no ceremony to complete, you can walk away at any time. You don't have to stay. You don't have obligations that keep you there like kids or pets, a house or the financial ruin a divorce would cause. Being a friend is 100% choice. The weighty meat of the matter is this: Friendship has just as much baggage and expectation of a marriage and none of the commitment. You have to choose to stay.

Being a friend is one of the most rewarding things I have done. I have enjoyed countless hours of conversation, learning, picked up new hobbies and been witness to some amazing talents. I love my girls and who they are, each individually and as a group. Dynamics will always change and morph, but the core of who my friends are will not. When things get toughest and I can't find any quarter from the raucous storms that buffet me, my friends are the ones who reach out and pull me into the boat. I know I can count on them even if I don't like what they have to say. It doesn't change the fact that they love me.

My prayer today is that God will show me how to be a friend, no matter what. Jesus was the prime example. He did it perfectly. He was shunned and hurt, yet he remained. He was misunderstood, yet he didn't waver. He didn't lie to fit in, or sacrifice his character to please. No level of pain changed Christ's outlook on his friends. He knew who they were and He celebrated them each for being themselves. Because He did, I choose to do what I can to be the best friend I know how, baggage and all.

I love you friends... And you know who you are!