FIRST THINGS FIRST -- HAPPY NEW YEAR! I MISSED Y'ALL!
I went to an event last Saturday that was an open discussion on a variety of topics. There were women from all different backgrounds there but we all shared one common thing, our Blackness. It was beautiful to be in a room full of women who looked like me, knew what my “looks” meant, and would say “girllll” in unison like a choir. One topic that we talked about that stood out to me most was friendship.
The question went something like this “How important is it to have friends? Do you need friends to live?” The faces across the room said many different things before our lips could even speak. Some said, “What does this even mean?” other faces said “Ummm yeah girl!” and then there were faces that said “What friends?”. The faces invited a very interesting conversation. The panelists all agreed that friendship is important and that we should all have a sister circle, even if it’s small. The audience had other thoughts. Some agreed, some expressed their own situations with toxic friendships, and some just remained silent.
Friendships are so interesting. The definition is not just what we see on dictionary.com , it encompasses our experiences, expectations, and aspirations. It embodies what we value and what we will not put up with. I was so surprised to see that my poll on twitter unanimously had 50+ votes that basically said that we need to have a real ass talk about healthy friendships.
Clearly, we all have had our share of shitty friendships. So what I have done is broken down friendships into four sections. Now, these are the things I think are important in building and maintaining healthy friendships. There are so many more things to add but I am going to focus on communication, discernment, forgiveness, and “the reality”.
Communication: Okay, so boom, we suck at communicating. It’s a fact. Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves and sometimes our communication skills cause the biggest problems in our friendships.
Passive aggressiveness hands down can take a situation from solvable with a quick talk to not speaking to someone for years OR it can lead to bottling up your emotions until you burst. That shit is not fun.
In my own failed friendships, I have noticed that lackluster communication, not having HONEST communication, is usually why shit doesn’t work out. If there is a problem, someone either doesn’t say anything or the receiver doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. This shit is also not fun.
In order to grow in your friendships, you must tend to the garden in your friendships. Are you asking questions? Are you expressing your dislikes with grace and compassion? Are you actually listening or waiting to project your own issues onto them? Your friend is not your therapist, your punching bag, or your journal. Your friend should be someone you can confide in for comfort and support and you should be doing the same.
Forgiveness: Often times when someone does something we don’t like we don’t always tell them and if we do we may meet them with anger, all bad. We get upset, become passive aggressive, or we shut down. That’s not only unfair to you; it’s unfair to your friend. People can’t apologize for things they don’t know that hurt you. Your friends are also not mind readers.
When I was a preschool teacher I would always encourage my students to use their words to express how they feel. I would tell them to use “I feel ____ “ statements. I’ve noticed, in my own friendships, that I am guilty of not always telling my friends when they hurt me. Over the years and through some failed friendships I realized that when I didn't not speak up, things couldn’t be resolved.
Speaking up about what hurts has made it easier for me to forgive. It has also made it easier for me to discern when it’s time to let go. You can forgive a friend and end the friendship too. Forgiveness isn’t a band-aid for a shitty friendship. Forgiveness is for you, honestly. It’s saying that you have healed from the situation and you are releasing that pain. Releasing that pain may come with realizing that you must release that entire friendship or it may make the friendship even stronger but forgiveness must happen.
Your friends are humans and humans make mistakes. Sometimes a friend may say something that triggers something in you they knew nothing about. Talk to them, tell them how you feel, forgive them and based on how that conversation goes – proceed accordingly.
Discernment: I honestly sat on this one for days. Discernment is hands down a thing that we are always polishing and learning how to do better each day. Sometimes we ignore it. Shit, I know I have. Ignoring it is how I ended up in some toxic friendships for years and didn’t even realize it until I was drained and ready to fight everybody. We have to listen to our gut. We have to practice discernment in our friendships daily. Earlier I talked about letting go and discernment is very helpful in making that decision.
Being friends with someone for 15 years is nice but if that friendship involves a level of repetitive drama that literally drains you, let that shit go. Your discernment 15 years ago is not the same as it is now. Some friends you met back in 2017 need to be let go too. Friendships evolve and some dissipate. It is O K A Y. Your intuition and gut are the first red flag, listen to it.
Discernment is also a reminder to mind your business. It’s very easy to want to provide your friend with unsolicited advice, suggestions, and things they didn’t ask for. It’s our way of showing we care but sometimes being quiet, listening, and minding our business is showing we care,too. We can often project what we think would work for our friend's situation because it worked for us. I, too, am guilty of not minding my business in the past and doing too much. Luckily, I have learned to listen to my gut and to be an active listener to my friends.
“The Reality”: I hate to say this, actually I don’t, but some of us are bad friends. That is the reality, the tea, the shade, the whatever you want to call it. The things we demand from others we are not even providing. One thing I also remembered being told growing up was “if you have a problem with all your friends then maybe…JUST MAYBE…you are the problem”. Don’t shoot the messenger, I am just telling you what I was told.
We often forget that we can be the problem in our toxic friendships. It’s not always them, it’s you, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. If you want to have healthier friendships, start with what type of friend you are vs. the type of friend you want to have. What you want in a friendship should also be what you are bringing to the friendship. You can’t show up at the dinner table with your fork, plate, and cup but expect your friend to provide all of the food that is needed to nourish that friendship. Show up for your friends, be present, and pour into them as they pour into you. Everyone’s glass should be getting refilled at the same damn time.
It sucks to know that you may be the problem but sometimes we can be shitty friends because of our own mess. We have to turn the mirror on ourselves and really learn how to be a good friend and what being a friend means to us. You can go from being a shitty friend to being a good friend with work. Evaluate your past friendships and see if there was a common thing that went left, hold yourself accountable, and work on changing the parts of you that may be causing the toxicity in your relationships.
Whew, okay, that was a self-drag in four parts. I have been on the good side and the shitty side of friendships. I have been a terrible friend and I have grown to become a better friend. I have let people go and have been let go. It’s never an easy process and yes it hurts terribly but it happens.
What are 4 things that you think are important to remember in a friendship? Comment below and let me know!