The Friend Equilibrium

If you’ve read my journal entry, The Friend Manifesto, then you already know how much I value friendship. As the saying goes: You don’t get to choose your family, but you get to choose your friends, so make your choice worthwhile. I love the saying because it highlights what is most important, which doesn’t mean choosing the most popular people as your friends, or the ones with the most money, or even the ones who share the same faith as you. It’s about choosing friends who make spending time with them a worthwhile experience, who don’t take you for granted, and who are there for you when you need them, and more importantly, are there for you when you don’t.

A good friend knows when to leave you alone, and when to push you harder. She comes over when you say don’t, because she can hear in your voice that you really need her. She sends you a small note in the mail just because she was thinking of you. She doesn’t ditch you when she gets a boyfriend, preferring to include you in some of their activities, and to even spend one-on-one time with you when you need it. To her, you are a present she got a long time ago that she has never allowed to get dusty. But here’s the trick, and it’s a big one. You have to be that for her too. It’s not good enough to just take and take some more. You have to give as well. You see, because friendship is a reciprocal thing. “It’s a game of give and take.”

I went with a good friend not long ago to see a movie and we had a chat in a coffeehouse first. While it’s good to see movies with your friends, it’s also good to have some quiet time just to talk. How can you be there for someone if you don’t know what’s going on in their lives? So spend time on your friendship. Put some effort into it, because, trust me, it will give back to you tenfold and then some. One thing I can’t stand is when that special person you’ve been seeing for a while sits you down and says, “I just want to be friends,” as if being friends is the lowest thing on the list. What she really means when she says that ominous phrase is that she wants to “just be acquaintances,” to acknowledge your presence with a head nod when you pass on the street, to send you a Christmas card for one year after the breakup, then forget you ever existed. That’s not friends, and it stings to hear that phrase because that’s not what they really want.

And you can’t be friends with everyone. It’s impossible, but even if it was possible, you wouldn’t really want it. You can’t give everyone what they need from you as a friend if you’re stretched too thin. That’s where the part about making your choice worthwhile comes in. If you have “friends” who are really just acquaintances, that’s okay. Just don’t think you can lean on them like friends and that they will do the same for you. Because they won’t, and don’t be surprised when they won’t. One true friend is worth a ballroom full of false friends and poseurs.

So make your choice worthwhile.

Sam

The Friendship Archive

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