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What's in a Friend?

Updated on January 6, 2020

The Mechanics of Friendship

What makes a good friend?

I've had some interesting friendships in my lifetime. Each has served a specific purpose. Some didn't last long but others have lasted a lifetime.

There are those friends from school that I've known for 30+ years. I love how it seems like no time has passed when we see each other.

I've had deep friendships that came to an end. There have even been toxic relationships where I contributed to the toxicity. That is the type of friendship that teaches you how to be a better friend as long as you see where you went wrong.

I have that friend who is like a sister to me. We've been friends for so long that our relationship is ingrained into our existence.

Despite the lovely friendships I had earlier in my life, I was once so damaged from a toxic friendship that I lost my grip on the definition. I thought the only way someone would be friends with me was if I became useful to them. That misconception came from the guilt I shouldered over a friendship that didn't end well. This vulnerability is how future friends can unintentionally use you or do so intentionally if they are that sinister. The connection isn't there for them outside of what you do. Once you can't do for them anymore, they throw you to the wayside in a heartbeat.

It took a while for me to learn the mechanics of true friendship. In those instances where I went above and beyond, I learned that I mattered in some cases, but what I did was all that mattered in others. It's a harsh reality, but it's how you fine-tune where you let people stand in your life and where you allow yourself to stand in theirs.

Forgiveness in Friendship

The mechanics of friendship also taught me a lot about forgiveness. Forgiving someone or the lack thereof is another way to determine where you stand with people. We are all going to make mistakes at some point and those mistakes will upset our friends. Will they look at the one mistake as a needle in a haystack of good or will they let the needle have all of the power? What will you do if they unintentionally hurt you? Forgive them? Would they do the same for you?

Regardless of the outcome, forgiveness is about bringing peace into your own heart and cherishing those good times. Forgiveness doesn't always mean reconciliation, especially if the hurtful act was intentional. These are the friends that tend to be there for a season, but the lessons they teach are invaluable.

The Definition of Friendship

To illustrate a true friend, there's one I want to tell you about. I consider her a rare one.

So many times, friends would distance themselves when things got hard. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, this one said the words "We're going to get through this."

When some friends get tired of that journey and grow distant out of mental exhaustion, this one was on a two-hour road trip with me to a new cancer center over a year after my diagnosis.

Some of my friends became frightened and I didn't fault them for this. Their fear was a reflection of how much they cared. In fact, I hoped that their distance lessened the pain they felt. I don't like to inconvenience the people I love, so I don't ever want to be the source of pain.

This one, however, saw and felt and became an important player in my cancer journey from the moment I found the lump. She was 16 when I met her nearly 20 years prior. It's amazing to look back at how clueless I was that our meeting through one of those seasonal friends would become the profound and life-changing friendship that it is now.

It was difficult for me to put her through the throes of my cancer diagnosis. I had to constantly remind myself that she wanted to be there. At one point, I had to ask myself if I would do the same for her. Realizing that I would do so in a heartbeat is what made me stop feeling like an unintentional source of heartache and more appreciative of the fact that God found me to be deserving of such a person in my life.

I have so many wonderful friendships, but this friend is the definition personified. She has listened to me talk in circles with worry and hasn't complained once. She has sat in an exam room with me and watched the body language and facial expressions of my care team. I know her expressions enough that I can tell when something isn't right and I know I can trust her. She knows the way my mind works enough that she can ask the right questions when I have life-altering things to consider.

Hold Them Close

So when you find that friend, hold them close and don't take them for granted. Give as much as they give to you when you can. If they are a true friend, they will understand when you can't reciprocate and vice versa. True friendship isn't about keeping score. If you have a friend that is keeping a tally of "what I do for you versus what you do for me," there's a good chance you are dealing with a seasonal friendship that is teaching you a lesson. Heed that lesson well because it will pay off when you meet those people that simply mesh well with your soul and become an amazing part of your life's journey.

© 2020 Ginger Gillenwater


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