Before we leap to the qualities of a good friend, I have a few questions for you…
Do you ever loathe socializing? You know, set dates with enthusiasm and then mentally die when the day arrives?
Better yet, do you spend more time socializing through a medium like Instagram than partake in actual real-life meaningful interactions?
Maybe your relationships consist of getting loaded and dim memories the morning after?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above then you and I are cut from the same cloth.
The problem is that I love people but I’m actually not a great friend. I’m unbelievably extroverted yet against all odds simultaneously extremely introverted.
For example, if I had a conversation with someone I also had ten conversations going on in my head at the exact same time.
I basically would talk myself out of everything. I realized it was “time to nut up or shut up” – shout out to Willy Harrelson. Yes. I needed to get FAT.
No, I don’t mean you need to tack on some pounds. Rather I refer to happiness as proportional to the ability to be a Faithful, Available, and Teachable friend.
The Qualities Of A Good Friend
Numbre uno, I needed to get faithful.
Not in the sense I was two-faced or a cheater, but I needed to say what I mean and mean what I say.
I had one of them jelly fish backbones. This may benefit seafolk but on land it wasn’t doing me any favors.
My convictions we’re about as firm as a feather pillow.
If only I could follow Jesus and “let my yes be yes and my no be no.”
But I let my yes be no, my no be yes, I also utilized maybe a lot, and frequently mumbled “whatever.”
I knew being a faithful friend meant showing up when I said I would and, when I couldn’t, not committing to something and “waiting seeing how it would unfold.”
Some synonyms of faithful are loyal, constant, and true.
I’d like to think I was batting 100 on the first and third but constancy is where I failed. It’s like two finely prepared pieces of bread with rotten turkey in between.
What’s the benefit of being loyal and true if I fail to be constant?
I was flakey, so I had to devise a plan to counteract this.
My plan consisted of accountability partners, immense vulnerability, a great deal of fear, and encouraging friends.
Fortunately, I have FAT friends, so this helped considerably.
In any event, if you desire to break the stressful cycle of wanting friends and yet wanting to be alone becoming faithful is a solid beginning.
Because you probably lack significant boundaries. God knows I did.
Let me ask you a question…
Is spending ample time alone and also having great friendships somehow incompatible?
Enough is enough.
Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
If something goes awry and a friend is in need, I’ll be there.
I may be flakey but I’m not a complete asshole.
There is a difference between faithfulness and availability. At least, how I’m defining the words 🙂
Faithfulness refers to commitments and boundaries, namely, holding to one’s word. It’s an intellectual enterprise regarding discipline and organization. Admittedly, as noted above, I struggle there.
Availability is different, it’s about the heart.
When push comes to shove can you be trusted? Do those around you doubt your love and affection?
I don’t struggle here. Most of us with the little boundaries have big hearts.
However, if this is where you struggle you may need to be less calculated in terms of your boundaries.
It’s likely you need to let people in. No, it does not mean you need to become transparent with the whole world. It does mean you need to make your heart more available. If you don’t, I fear the loneliness that will follow will be far more unbearable than the fear of opening up.
Faithfulness must always be balanced by the proper dose of availability.
But that’s not all…
Have you heard of the Prayer of Saint Francis? Indulge me:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
There it is folks, that’s teachability in a nutshell.
It’s a movement of the head and the heart.
I was so naturally self-centered that I only sought to be understood, to be loved, to be pardoned, to be consoled, that I became constitutionally incapable of forming true partnerships with other people.
How could I not?
It was basically relationships with myself and others were present for the experience.
Sounds atrocious, right?
I compensated for my extreme self-obsession by being overly available with no boundaries whatsoever.
Well, I was bitter and others were frustrated.
How people loved me is beyond me. I suppose they had had strong teachable qualities.
At any rate, I started to use the Prayer Of Saint Francis as my guide.
How would other people feel if I acted this way? How would I feel if people treated me this way? The good old golden rule, “treat others as you would want to be treated.”
Immanuel Kant used the analogy of law. If what I willed could be turned into a law for all people at all times how would the world operate?
Well, nobody would show up and everyone would live in fear behind closed doors. Yeah, not the world I want to live in.
So, I started to become teachable and challenged the silly laws I held within myself. I encourage you to do the same.
Are you ready to get FAT? Are you ready to get connected, become a better friend, and achieve a higher level of happiness?
It begins today.
Gandhi’s advice couldn’t be more on the money, you need to become the change that you want to see in the world.
What does getting FAT accomplish?
- It stops us from judging ourselves and others.
- It replaces complaining about others with self-reflection.
- It moves us to take action in the world over that which we have the most control: ourselves.
So, without further adieu Michael Jackson’s killer tune, which is the above Gandhi verse in musical form: Man In The Mirror.