The word “friend” is used so frequently these days that it has all but lost its meaning. We connect with people on social media and call them friends. We refer to coworkers and classmates, and neighbors as friends. People we’ve met a handful of times or knew in high school and haven’t heard from in years are labeled our friends. Sometimes we even call people that we don’t like very much our friends.
Understanding the meaning of true friendship and what it takes to be a good friend is one of the most important endeavors we take in our lives. To have one true friend in your life is a blessing. Likewise, a bad friendship can actually hinder your growth. We often don’t know or don’t understand what defines real friendship and so don’t act accordingly. To find a true friend, you need to BE a true friend.
Here are 3 ways to tell if you are a good friend to someone:
- Do you want only good things for them? Many of our friendships begin with shared common interests. We like the same movies, music, hobbies, or activities, and we enjoy each other’s company. But true friendship is so much more than enjoying spending time with someone. It means wanting good things for another person as much as you want them for yourself without any sense of jealousy.
This is one of the reasons that friendship is a such a powerful part of our spiritual process. Seeing someone else be successful can make us feel inadequate. It may drive us to bring the other person down with jabs or insults. We might start gossiping about them. We try to sabotage them in some way to make ourselves feel better, even if we do so subconsciously.
You cannot be a good friend if you harbor anger, resentment, or jealously for that person. A true friend is someone who genuinely wants good things for you and vice versa.
- How much do you share with them? There is often an aspect of ego when it comes to friendship. We wonder: are they doing enough for me? Are they calling me as much as I call them? Are they supporting me in the way I need?
The truth is you cannot be a good friend when you are focusing only on what you are receiving (or not receiving) from the relationship. Friendship is one of the highest forms of spirituality because it means putting someone else first. It requires of us to be selfless.
Being selfless is more than just the desire to share with our friends - we have to actually show it through our actions. Ask yourself: how much am I giving to my friend? Do I enjoy sharing with them, or am I only valuing the relationship because they are giving me something I need?
True friendship is reciprocal, of course. It is a two-way street that requires both parties to share with each other. But focusing on our giving instead of our receiving opens the door for that relationship to grow into something truly meaningful.
- Do you accept them fully? Everyone has things that they are working on, and sometimes those things can get on our nerves. For some of our relationships, we often decide to just tolerate those aspects of the other person, knowing that we cannot change them. We don’t like those parts of them, but we resign ourselves to just deal with them. The problem with this is that, until we fully accept all parts of another person, we will continue to hold them at arm’s length.
Acceptance means seeing all sides of another person and loving them without judgment. This is much easier said than done. It requires work on our part to grow as more open, accepting people – both within and outside of the relationship. This doesn’t mean that we must turn a blind eye to the areas that our friends need to work on. In fact, it allows us to approach our friends constructively with love and without judgment when they need guidance, advice, or insight.
Everyone needs to have at least one person they can really open up to completely, knowing that they won’t be judged. This is what allows us to be vulnerable with another person. The deeper a friendship, the more layers you can take off around that person. It’s important that we ask ourselves: am I tolerating things about my friend, or do I really accept them unconditionally?
Friendship is hard work, and it can be scary. Most of us have been hurt by a friend at one or time or another. It takes courage to enter new friendships and to become vulnerable after being burned in the past. As we go through life and put ourselves out there, we will get hurt. It is part of life and part of our growth process. As we get better at cultivating friendships, this will happen less and less.
Invest time, effort, and thought into becoming a better friend. The better friend you become, the better friendships you will attract and cultivate.