We all want deep, fulfilling friendships in our lives. But if you have ever spent a Friday night eating take-out (alone) and wondered why your Facebook feed is brimming with pictures of people having way too much fun while your phone is not ringing (is this thing dead or something? Maybe youneed to charge it) you may be making a mistake in how you interact with your friends.
Why are Friendships so Important?
You see, back in the day when we humans roamed the land half-naked in a socially acceptable way (those were the days, weren’t they?), we discovered the power of relationships. If Suzy happened to fall behind as she and her tribe moved from one place to another in search for food and shelter, she would be without the support of the fellow members of her tribe. Worse even, she may be eaten by the local gangster sabre-tooth.
But we don’t live in that day and age any longer.
In a world where you stare at your phone’s screen longer than you interact with others, I believe the role of relationships in our lives remains paramount not only to our survival, but to our thriving as an individual.
Family—well, you kind of get stuck with them for life… for better or worse.
Friends, on the other hand, are a choice that you both make. Friendship, I have learned, is like a contract that you both sign.
The terms of the contract? For better or worse: to cry on each other’s shoulders, play geeky games together, get in trouble together, and listen to each other’s woes. Sound about right to you?
So while Mary may not have to protect you from sabre-tooths any longer, your friend Mary will be there to help carry your drunk ass home after you passed out from that one shot of Peppermint Schnapps that you took earlier during the night (never EVER again!!).
Mary will be there to listen to you about how your significant other is being a total jerk.
Mary will be there to lend you money when you screwed up and are desperate for help.
Mary will be there to laugh with you (or, let’s be real here… at you).
Mary will be there… until she decides not to be.
Ending Friendships and New Friendships
I started thinking a lot about the subject of relationships and friendship because of the cliché friendship quote by Michelle Ventor “Some people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you’ll know exactly what to do.”
Friendship sayings aside, such is life that friends come and go as their own destiny beckons them. And although we may not be in danger of being eaten by a big cat any longer (unless you are Walter Palmer being thrown into lion country covered in raw meat as payback for killing Cecil the Lion), it goes without saying that our emotional and psychological stability is highly dependent on the quality of our relationships.
So, how, I wondered, can I increase the quality of my relationships? Surely, I must be making some sort of mistake.
In reading an article on the Anthropology of Friendship I was struck by the idea that friends are not a given, but rather an earned privilege. Of course, there are many toxic friendships that one would not dare consider a privilege, but even then, there is much we can learn from both toxic and healthy friendships.
I was simply struck by the fact that I had taken my friends (or my relationships in general) for granted. Like much of my life, my friendships were running on autopilot. Don’t get me wrong, cruise control is AWESOME, but it also robs you of the power of choice.
The Big Mistake: Are You Doing Love Well?
This little gem I found on the interweb, Choose Her Every Day (Or Leave Her) (caution, although I find the main picture very inspiring, it may not be appropriate by certain standards to some people aka work, church, etc.) by Bryan Reeves really opened my eyes to the matter. In this short but powerful article, Bryan writes about the power of choosing what you focus on in a relationship.
I loved in particular how he writes about doing love well.
One of the things I am very passionate about is teaching others about the power of taking charge of your life. I believe our culture, on the other hand, seems to encourage the belief that we need to be saved by a hero. And so many of us wait for the perfect job, the perfect lover, the perfect income, or even the perfect day before we can be happy. Life, however, is happening right this very moment.
Life doesn’t wait for anything to be perfect in order for it to happen (you should totally tweet this).
Life is messy like that.
Love in our relationships and friendships is the same.
I know for a fact now that life and love are a process of continuous growth. Life and love are a process that involves your full, undivided attention, lots of introspection, and active participation/engagement. Prince Charming isn’t going to come save you from your life, my darling. Love isn’t something that happens to you, but rather something you make happen and bring to the table (you can tweet this too!).
Every day you have the choice between focusing on another’s shortcomings vs. what it is you appreciate about them. While the former will undoubtedly create a gap in your relationships, the latter will solidify the bond.
The idea that what you choose to focus on can make or break a relationship helped me realize that your behavior in the relationship is just as important. Since “friendships” are not a given, but a privilege, then you ought to act accordingly if you want to a) make friends, and b) keep the ones you already have–lest you find yourself eating take out on a Friday night (alone).
So that got me thinking.
If others wanting ME to be their friend depends on what I choose to focus on about them and how I act towards them…
How can I avoid the mistake of seeing the worst in people?
How can I choose to see the best in people and BE A BETTER FRIEND to people?
And then my boyfriend walked in with the answer to my dilemma: “What is something that I’m really good at?” he asked me.
Unbeknownst to him, I took the question as a challenge to make it a point to see the best in him and others, and to remind him of it whenever possible. He’s kind of over it already.
I want to leave you with a little Epic challenge today that can do wonders in your relationships and mindset: For every thing you don’t like about someone, think of at least three things that you do like about them.
Don’t cheat! Challenge yourself. And be Epic.
- Relationships were paramount for the survival of the human species as they provided protection from the environment.
- Relationships can also help us thrive now that survival and protection from the environment aren’t as much of an issue anymore.
- Friends are awesome.
- Friendships are a choice that you make.
- Friendships are earned.
- No one is coming to save you, so you better take charge of your life.
- Love is a verb not a noun.
- Choose to see the worst in people and you risk your relationships; choose to see the best in people and strengthen the bonds that you make with others.
- Ask yourself: How can I be a better friend to others?
- Epic Challenge: For every negative thing you say or think about others, come up with three positive things about them.
I am going to be writing A LOT more about relationships and improving my relationships because that’s one of the things I am currently focused on in my life. To accomplish my goal of being a better friend and person altogether, I am reading “How To Make Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carniege (a book I strongly recommend as it has changed the way I interact with people).
If you have liked what you read, consider sharing this content so that others can benefit from it too. I would also suggest joining Team Epic. Join me on this Epic journey by signing up to my free newsletter. All you have to do is type your name and email below and you’re set for epicness.
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