Are you a fair-weather friend – occasionally around, there and not there, half-hearted in your friendship? Or are you a great friend to those you love dearest? My guess is you are a wonderful friend, just ask your friends!
But let’s get specific for a moment. What kind of a friend are you? Each of us have a few particular gifts and talents we offer our friends – what are yours? How do you show up as a friend in times of joy? What kind of friendship do you offer in times of pain? Take a few minutes and write out a few of your friendship characteristics for those times.
In great times, when a friend of mine is sharing a particular happiness, I get super interested and intrigued by their story. I ask questions and savor hearing all the details. I am known to cheer and jump for joy with them. I also reflect back to them how amazing their moment is, what I know of their uniqueness that resonates with that particular good time.
When I’m with a friend who is in pain, or has been hurt, I’m the type of friend who really sinks into being present. I listen and empathize. I acknowledge the difficulty and witness. I tend to ask what would be most helpful to them, and try to provide that support, if they know. If they need to talk it through, if they need to be distracted by a pedicure, if they need prayers and loving energy – I try to offer those things. I remind them when I’ve seen their resilience. My friends also tell me I’m reliable and generous.
Now, here’s the kicker question….
What kind of friend are you to yourself?
How do you show up for yourself in good times, and in bad times? Are you that same reliable, generous friend? Or are you more of a fair-weather friend to yourself?
This was the thought-provoking, heart-rending question I read last night in a book by Tara Brach called Radical Acceptance. The book, so far, discusses how to bring Buddhist principles of mindfulness, of acceptance to life in the present moment, as a way to create a more peaceful and loving way of life. Brach says:
Our habit of being a fair-weather friend to ourselves – of pushing away or ignoring whatever darkness we can – is deeply entrenched. But just as a relationship with a good friend is marked by understanding and compassion, we can learn to bring these same qualities to our own life.
I stopped reading right there as I recalled my own moments of darkness and pain. When I reach to my friends in those moments, they offer their gifts of deep listening, kindness, support and reminders of my goodness. Their friendship gives me ease and relief.
Often, in those same moments, I am often not at all kind to myself. More frequently I am impatient with my pain. I berate myself for even being in pain, or sad, or hurt. I interrogate myself about what I’m doing wrong. I spin in a mental spiral of what I should change or do differently, ideas, suggestions, better-next-time thoughts. This type of friendship is not, to say the least, relieving nor brings any ease.
My relationships with friends have always been a point of integrity. I try to be very intentional and thoughtful in those relationships. I’m not always perfect and make my share of missteps but my values around trust, belonging and loving support are high priorities. So I’m always interested in how to have good friendships.
Brach’s question has challenged me to extend my friendship capabilities, to widen the boundary of the experience of friendship I hope to offer. What kind of friend do I want to be, to everyone, myself included?
Now I want to work on more consistency and congruence, taking more responsibility for bringing these friendship values to myself as well. If I can practice bringing more of my friendship qualities to myself, instead of that fair-weather character, might I be a better friend overall, might I become an even better friend to others? And if so, wouldn’t that make everyone a winner? Like icing on the cake? Double-bonus points? Gift with purchase? I think it might, so I’m going to practice more – because I really, really like icing on the cake.
I’m all about the application and action, so here are some suggestions to be a better friend to yourself.
- Awareness is ALWAYS the first, best step. Just try to recognize the moments when you need to be a friend to yourself. Or bring awareness to your self-talk in a painful moment – check the friendship quality. NOT to berate yourself for being a bad friend, rather to catch your habits. When you can catch the habit, then you can make a different choice.
- List out your friendship qualities, as I did above. Practicing bringing one of these qualities to yourself the next time you have joy or pain.
- List out the ways your friends are most helpful to you in times of joy or pain. Which of these would be a natural fit for you to practice with yourself?
- Share your ideas and actions that have worked for you in the comments (or whatever social media you’re reading this on), share the wisdom, share the icing!