“In the cookies of life, good friends are the chocolate chips.”
This phrase is on a magnet that has been on my parents’ refrigerator for as long as I can remember. I can’t tell you how many times I read this magnet and thought about what it meant, but I honestly think it’s one of the truer statements in life. I mean…Chocolate chip cookies are arguably the best of all of the cookies. And a warm chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven….??? YES. And good friends are one of life’s greatest treasures. So comparing the two makes sense, right? Delicious chocolate chip cookies are important to have, but not necessarily that difficult to find. But what about good friends? They’re OBVIOUSLY equally as important as good cookies:), but not as easy to acquire.
The topic of friendship has been really prevalent in my life lately (as has the topic of cookies because…cookies). I’ve come across quite a few articles, blogs, Facebook posts, conversations, etc. that have been about friendship. We have access to so many people, things, opportunities, but we are still hungry for connection and community. And, since this is something that has been a major issue in my life for a long time I have a lot of feelings and words to share about it.
Sooo…maybe I SOMETIMES watch some of the Real Housewives shows on Bravo. Maybe I don’t. Who’s to say? Don’t judge me. Everyone has their vices so just LET ME LIVE MY LIFE OK.
It’s my guilty pleasure:). But even though it’s my guilty pleasure, I always come away with a lesson or an interesting observation. One of the recurring things I see any time I’ve watched it is that, just like me, all of the women on the Real Housewives shows are desperate to be loved, liked, known. They deeply desire to have relationships with people who love them and value them, who they enjoy being around, and, most importantly, who are faithful and trustworthy. Obviously this is true for them when it comes to their spouses/boyfriends, but it is so much more evident when it comes to their friendships with other women. Every single episode is about the women lunching, traveling, partying and the drama that ensues because of their time spent together. And every single problem that they have is based on trust…someone talked bad about someone, someone shared someone else’s secret with someone, someone got their feelings hurt because someone didn’t include them in something, someone confronted someone at a big event because of something that person did. It’s crazy! It’s dramatic! It’s addicting and that’s what keeps the viewers coming back each week:)!
ANYWAY….I promise this blog post is not about the Real Housewives. Even though what we see on the show probably isn’t 100% real, they give us a pretty interesting look at friendships. Friendships are a huge part of our lives. And, I believe that no matter what anyone says or how they act, deep down we all desire to have good, authentic friendships. Yes, my spouse is important, and he should be the most important person on earth to me. And I believe that we should pray and seek the Lord when choosing a spouse. But I also believe that we should take choosing our friends just as seriously. I mean, we have more than one of them. They are our people. They’re the ones who we love and who love us. Who we trust with information about our lives, who pray for us, who host our wedding and baby showers, who attend our birthday parties, who do late night trips to Target with us, who exercise with us, who babysit our kids, who road trip with us, who bring food to us when we’ve just had a baby, who are there for us when it’s tough. Friendships are important.
When I was a kid, making and keeping friends was so much more natural than it is now. I was with kids my own age at school, at church, in dance class, etc. and those relationships just progressed on their own. For one thing, when you’re with people all the time, it’s easier to get to know them. Your interests are probably similar and hanging out just sort of happens…play dates, birthday parties, being assigned seats next to each other in math class, going on mission trips together….all that stuff. But I remember when I started college it was like starting from scratch again. I still had my childhood friends, but most of us were attending different colleges. Then after college, I moved back home but I was married, so Justin and I had to kind of find our niche as a married couple in our hometown. A few years later, I had Jud, and most of my closest friends didn’t have any kids, yet, so I had to find my way and figure out relationships as a new mom. Then, when Jud was a year old, I lost my 2 closest friends when we left our church at the time. And that hurt in a way that I can’t even begin to explain.
So, I feel like I’ve just been floating around looking for friends for a long time. And the older I get, the harder it gets to make friends and to maintain those friendships. It’s like an audition process or going on a first date. It’s kind of awkward and a little scary to put yourself out there to possibly get rejected, or to find that the person isn’t who you thought they were, or perhaps you don’t have as much in common as you thought. While I love making new friends, at times the whole process can be tiring and discouraging. And if you’re like me, and you’re coming from a situation where you’ve been betrayed and/or abandoned by close friends, making friends can even be somewhat painful.
I greatly value friendships. In fact I think I may value them differently than most people. I probably expect too much out of friendships sometimes, and I know that’s not fair. And I sometimes sell myself short by believing that no one will like me for who I am, so I have to be something that they will want or need in order to get them to want to be my friend. And I can think of many times when I went out of my way to pursue a friendship with someone who was nice and seemed to enjoy my company, but who never put in the same effort to maintain a friendship (boy does that hurt). And I notice that I can sometimes put way too much hope into a friendship, which is dangerous for several reasons, the main one being that I’m at risk of constantly being worried or disappointed.
For me, the most important thing about the friendship is trust. Can we trust each other? Not just that we can talk about stuff and know that neither person is going to tell anyone what we discussed (although that is very important). But can I trust this friend to trust me? Can I trust this friend to be honest with me? Can I trust this friend to defend me, to not talk about me to other people, to not betray me? Can I trust that this friend will put in the same effort I do to make sure we remain good friends? Can I trust her to speak truth into my life and to call me out when I’m acting ridiculous? Can I be myself around her and not feel judged or rejected? Can I show up to hangout with her wearing yoga pants and no makeup and not feel judged? These are the fears I deal with when I’m getting to know new friends. To be fair, I’m not always this friend. I could be more open or more honest or less judgmental. And, not all friendships are intended to be like this. Some people are just fun acquaintances and that’s all they’ll ever be. And that’s ok. I also realize that not everyone was taught the same values I was taught in regards to relationships. And many women have never truly experienced an authentic, real, trusting, friendship. So, they don’t even know what it looks like, or what they’re missing. Or, perhaps, they’re in same boat as me (and many others) and have been badly burned by a friend and they’re afraid to even try again. We all have different backgrounds and hurts and, frankly, it makes me just want to grab all the women I see and hug them and take them to a coffee shop so we can help each other figure this friendship thing out.
I’ve always believed that in order to have a good friend, you have to be a good friend. So what does it take to BE a good friend? Here’s what I think:
**Disclaimer: As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not an expert, or a licensed counselor or life coach, or in any position to be giving any advice about anything:). This is just my opinion.
1. Be honest.
When you meet new people, be you. Be who you are. Be ok with the things you like and don’t like and don’t be afraid to share those things. Don’t over-share or overwhelm them with info, but allow them to get to know you. Don’t play a role to impress or to lure them into a friendship with you. No matter how minor the “lie”, being fake is manipulative and dishonest, neither of which are the basis of a good friendship.
2. Be trustworthy.
Let them see that you can be trusted, that they can rely on you in the big and the small things. Show up when you say you will. When you make plans, don’t cancel at the last minute. Don’t gossip to them about other people or divulge anyone else’s secrets to them so that they don’t wonder whether you’ll do the same thing behind their back (this is tough because it’s easy for a “venting” session to turn into a gossip fest that I’ve been guilty of many times before). And if/when they eventually do open up to share something with you, keep the secret. Also, show them that they can be themselves around you. Do what you can to let them know you are a safe place for them.
3. Be upfront with your intentions and pursue them.
This is the most awkward part because you don’t want to be weird or get rejected or seem needy. But, tell them you want to be their friend! Seek them out to plan time to do something fun with them. Show them that you want to be their friend. Make the effort to plan get-togethers and to keep in touch.
4. Be kind to them, encourage them, and celebrate them.
Don’t be afraid to give them compliments and be genuinely happy for them when something good happens. No need for jealousy or comparison. Those things are unnecessary and ridiculous and do NOT have place within friendships. Find the good in them and point it out. People don’t do that enough and it is always noticed and so greatly appreciated when it happens.
Listen to them talk. Ask them questions and actually listen to their answers. Notice what they like, what makes them tick. Find out how their life led them to where they are now. You don’t have to have the perfect responses, or even any responses. Just listen.
6. Say yes to friendship!
Be open to making new friends. Be ready to be a friend. Look at each opportunity with new people as an opportunity to make a new friend. Even if it’s with someone you might not normally be drawn to. You won’t be good friends with everyone but you never know when a potential good friend will cross your path.
Now there is probably a lot more to it than just these 6 things, but I think these 6 things are pretty important if we’re wanting to be a good friend. And I believe BEING a good friend is the best way to FIND and KEEP good friends. And while being a good friend to someone is important and helpful, we have to also make sure we are seeking friendships with the right people. We can be a good friend to everyone we meet, but we must make sure that when we’re looking for GOOD friends we find a friend who is trying to do the same things we’re doing. A friend who is honest, trustworthy, upfront, kind and encouraging, who listens to us, and who seems open to making a friend.
Obviously no one is perfect and every friendship looks different, but, in my humble opinion, these are good guidelines in the journey toward being a good friend and finding good friendships.
***Side note to all the introverts out there: I realize the idea of making new friends is uncomfortable and/or terrifying to some of you. That’s ok. Even you need good, authentic friendships! Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone a little and spend some time making a new friend. I guarantee, if you are honest and open, you’ll find other introverts who love doing the same things you love doing. And you will be blessed!
So, just as a warm chocolate chip cookie makes you feel comforted and cozy and brightens your day, so should good friends. Let’s dare to be the chocolate chip cookies to the people in our life! Better yet, let’s BAKE some chocolate chip cookies and share them with our friends, old and new!
Tip: chocolate chip cookies will almost always bless someone and are a surefire way to open the door to friendship. I mean, I would absolutely be your friend if you brought cookies to me…………😉