Editorial: Be a Better Friend

For much of my life, I have owned pets. Sometimes these animals have gotten along and at others they haven’t. It depends on their temperament. My current cat hates everyone except for me, and even I can be the recipient of her anger now and again. My dad’s cat loves almost everyone—except my cat. Fortunately, they do not share the same home!

People remind me of my pets. Some are independent and do not show much interest in making friends while others are eager to form new relationships. Different people in our lives cause us to react in different ways, but our reasons for reacting as we do can sometimes tell us a lot about our personalities. I have quite a few people in my circle of acquaintances—some I like a lot, some I like a little, and some that simply rub me the wrong way. I have friends who share important things with me, like faith and political leanings. I have other friends I share interests with, who can always be counted on to see a movie with me or agree with me on how truly atrocious a recent novel was. Others I write fan fiction with, or blog with, or trade movie reviews with. And then there are people who do not often agree with me, but who I find interesting or thought-provoking.

Relationships have not always been my forte; just like everyone else, I have made a lot of mistakes and at times, a friendship has blown up in my face. Some break-ups can be fixed and others cannot, but if you do not learn from your mistakes, the natural flaws in your friendship-making skills will never improve.

Here are a few of the things I have learned through trial and error that help in keeping friendships strong.

Friends need you to listen. It is hard for some personalities, particularly “fixers,” to just listen, but that is sometimes all our friend needs—for us to let them complain and offer empathy. When someone is upset is not the time to offer solutions or advice. Wait until their emotions are steady—or until they ask you for advice and mean it. (When it comes to advice, I would recommend not offering any, ever.)

Do not read too much into things. Paranoia can run away with us. Just because a friend forgets to invite you along or does not call for a few days does not mean she is angry at you. Life happens. She may be busy, preoccupied, or distracted. Unless she is giving you obvious signs that something is wrong, don’t assume the worst.

Don’t take your friends for granted. It is easy to spend so much time thinking about the kind of relationship you don’t have that you fail to notice the ones you do. Maybe someone is sitting right in front of you who needs a friend, but you are too busy looking for something else that you haven’t noticed! God often puts people “in our way.” Get to know them; they are there for a reason.

It’s okay to establish boundaries. Little things are not worth nitpicking about, but if your friend is invading in some way on your beliefs it is okay to ask them to stop. Maybe they make insulting remarks about something you believe in strongly. Don’t get angry, but calmly explain to them that it offends you and move on. Most people will respect your point of view.

Don’t limit yourself. Many people do not have friends in a different age bracket. But young friends keep you young, and older friends have wisdom to share. Do not assume because someone is much older or much younger that you cannot have anything in common or make one another’s lives richer.

It’s okay to have different friends for different things. I have friends to discuss Dickens with, friends to watch sci-fi movies with, friends to bounce book ideas off of, and friends who mentor me in sewing. It’s okay if your friendships do not overlap or you only do one thing together.

Be yourself, and let them be who they are. This is the most important thing. Friends should be able to remain friends without expecting one another to change. Accept your individual good and negative traits and do not waste time wishing they would change.

Gotta go. Have a date with a friend. ♥

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