"Walking with a friend in the dark is
better than walking alone in the light."
Recently, I received a request to write a post about friendship. At first, I was stumped. I have some great friends—many of which I've had for over a decade!—but I wasn't exactly sure how these friendships had gotten so strong and lasted so long. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a lot actually went into making these relationships all that they are. Time, effort, and attention had been dedicated to transform relationships, making them incredibly valuable parts of my life.
Friendship is one of the most essential elements for creating a positive life. While one certainly could be positive without friends, it's much easier to stay optimistic with great people by your side. Being a friend isn't always easy—there are ups and downs, just like in any relationship—and it actually takes a lot of hard work to create a lasting and meaningful relationship. To have great friends, you must be a great friend; these are some of the vital aspects needed to cultivate that greatness:
STICK WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH.
Tough times are a part of life. We all go through them, and we all benefit greatly from those who stick by our sides when the going gets rough. No matter how tough things get, great friends stick. When the tough times are going on within the relationship, it can be a very difficult thing to do, but that's what makes a great and lasting friendship. Even when it's tempting to throw in the towel, a great friend will stick by your side and do his/her best to work through tough times.
BE EVER ENCOURAGING.
Encouragement is one of the best things about having a great friend. No matter how down or stressed you feel, a great friend will remind you that you're awesome, that you're on the right path (as long as you are...), and that you can do it. Great friends don't stop encouraging you, even when you've completed a goal. And they don't let you forget how amazing you were at getting to where you are now. There are times when that encouragement might seem to fall on deaf ears, but a great friend knows that, even if it goes unappreciated, encouragement is essential to creating a worthwhile friendship.
SPEAK WITH HONESTY.
This part of being a great friend can be tough. People don't always want to hear the honest truth. But that's what a great friend does. S/he tells it like it is—even when it might be hard to speak the truth. A great friend will especially be honest about the important things, like whether or not you are being treated fairly or whether or not you should keep doing something that's dragging you down. Even if the words are hard to say, a great friend will always, always tell the truth.
LEARN TO GIVE AND TAKE.
Friendship is a two-way street. If you're only giving or only taking, you're not being a great friend. To be a great friend, you must learn to give (your time, your truth, your love), but you must also learn to accept what's given in return. For some, it can be hard to accept aspects of friendship, but taking is part of the deal. Accept time, love, compliments, the truth—and do so willingly. Likewise, a great friend isn't ever hesitant to give. To be a great friend, you must both give and receive.
While some of the best relationships are built on mutual interests, to be a great friend must be able to respect the line where the similarities end and recognize that differences don't have to stand in the way of a good relationship. In fact, some of the best relationships can come develop with those who are quite different. The key is respect. You don't have to like the differences, but to be a great friend, you must respect them.
MAKE AN EFFORT.
"A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often—just to save it from drying out completely," said Pam Brown, and I couldn't agree more. If you want to be a great friend, you have to make an effort. And sometimes it's the little things that matter most—the letters, the phone calls, the quick catch-up lunches. To keep a friendship afloat, a great friend will put in the time to stay connected.
DON'T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED.
As with any relationship, taking it for granted can be the kiss of death. No matter how long you've been friends or how solid your relationship is, know that a great friend will never, ever take that relationship for granted. Friendships, especially good ones, are not a given and they should be treated as the amazing things that they are. A great friend will make a point to treasure the relationship and will make it clear how much s/he values it.
When you know someone well, it might be tempting to judge his or her actions (or in-actions!), but a great friend refrains from judging, knowing that judgments will only put strain on the relationship. A great friend is willing to speak the truth, but he or she holds back from adding personal judgment to those words of wisdom. A great friend also avoids comparisons, knowing that comparing is an excellent way to damage a good relationship.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE.
Though a great friend will be honest and truthful, s/he will also search for the good and focus on the positive elements of a friend's life. No matter how negative a friend gets, a great friend will try to redirect the focus back to the positive. A great friend will remember all the goodness and positivity in another's life and will focus on that. And even when times are tough in the relationship, a great friend will strive to see the good in the friendship.
BE YOUR OWN FRIEND.
To be a great friend, you must also be your own friend. The foundation of any relationship is the relationship you have with yourself—and any great friend knows that. A great friend will cultivate a good relationship within and, in doing so, will become a better friend to others. Loving and appreciating yourself sets the tone for how you will love and appreciate others and a great friend realizes that and will put a great deal of effort into creating both internal and external relationships.
There are many ways to be a great friend, but all of those rely on one's ability to be aware of the relationship and to value friendship. Some friendships are easier than others, but all take work. If the effort isn't made, the relationship won't last. A great friend knows this and puts in the time and energy needed to create and sustain a good relationship. As with most worthwhile things, there's no shortcut to creating a long-lasting, tried-and-true friendship, but the effort put in is worth it when you reap the rewards of having a great friend by your side.