Are you a Good Friend?

I am so blessed; I have many beautiful friends that I’m incredibly thankful for. There are enough to enrich my life but not more than I can handle, because I’ve given up on having a million ‘acquaintances’ – it just isn’t attainable. I’ve gone all ‘quality over quantity’ with my friendships and it’s working out a treat.

My small circle of close friends are scattered around the world. Some are wiser than others. Some are funner than others. Some I laugh with more. Some I cry with more. Some I am more honest with because they let me be. No two of my friends are the same and they are all amazing in their own right. They all have their weaknesses and their strengths, as do I.

Not one of these friends has ‘got it all’ in terms of friendship qualities. But I tell ya what, I’m damn fussy when it comes to friends, because they have an esteemed place in my life. Yep, my friends are handpicked. I listen to them, watch them and learn from them. They don’t all make decisions that I would and vice versa, but they still have a profound effect on my character. That is why I only get close to people who give and take, who encourage, who are real, who have awesome and desirable attributes. Mostly though, I’m friends with people who love me unconditionally.

Below I’ve listed my definition of a good friend, and what I think you need to be giving and receiving in your friendships.  Obviously this ain’t gospel, just my opinion (which this blog is riddled with, wa-hey!)

Without further ado…

They respect you. They respect your choices, even if they wouldn’t choose them. They respect you as a person and treat you with value. They are reliable and prioritise you – I believe this comes from respect.

They are honest with you and can take honesty. This is a big one for me because obviously, I love honesty! There’s only so deep you can go when you aren’t honest. From “that dress isn’t flattering on you, don’t buy it”, to “come on, you know better”. I love it when my friends talk straight with me, because I know that we’re always on the same page. A lot of times I don’t want to hear it but I always try to take it, even if I disagree. However some people just can’t handle honesty, period. Tread with caution when speaking honestly; it needs to be done well with sensitive issues. E.g. I hate being judged. I will not be honest with friends if I think they’re going to go all self-righteous on me, because that’s not what I need. I need love and acceptance, then correction. It’s an art. I used to be terribly judgmental and I still struggle, so I know it’s a tough one. Oh, and some people don’t want correction at all due to their value system being different, and in that case, drop it like a hot potato. But that’s just common sense.

They laugh with you. Not at you, with you. Lots and lots and lots. ’nuff said.

They bring out the good in you and encourage you. The best kind of friend sees your assets and focuses on them, as opposed to drawing on your weaknesses. You want to know why you are loved when you are with friends. It’s just standard protocol. However, sadly, some people are insecure and will subconsciously try and bring you down. If you feel crappy after hanging out with the same person every time, you need to re-think the friendship. Or just tell them to be nicer, dammit!

They listen to you. No one wants to be around the person who can’t stop talking about themselves and their life. Ugh. (Sometimes that’s me… eeeeek)

They spoil you. This can be in whichever way they love best – words, gifts, favours, hugs. Whatever they have to give, and whatever you need!

Now, even if you smell bad, I know you have friends. But that doesn’t mean they’re good friends, and I know I’ve suffered hugely from letting friends walk all over me. Don’t settle for crappy friendships that aren’t enriching your life in one way or another. No one is perfect, but there are some energy-sucking people out there that you cannot change with your friendship. They will continue to hurt you if you let them. Take this with a pinch of salt because I know there are always exceptions, but it needs to be said.

I know I am blessed with lovely friendships, but I also know that to keep those people there I need to be a great friend as well. If you want or need more awesome friends, then be an awesome person! Be yourself obviously, as well as kind, encouraging and open to new people you meet, and to the fantastic people you already know. Be the kind of friend that you want to have. That includes your best old pals too, of course. Cherish the longtime friends who have proved faithful over time, they’re like gold.

I’ve had friendship lulls in life, and no matter what else I did have at the time, I noticed and felt the lack. We were made to be in relationship with each other! Not just in romantic relationships, but also with the people around us every day.

Life is rich when you can call someone a friend. If you need a friend/more friends/better friends, then go and get ’em!

What do you think makes a good friend? What would you add to my list? 

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We’re All Pretenders

There are so many women I admire, that I either directly know or have heard about. They are strong and secure, confident and beautiful, talented and humble. From the outside they look organised (such a coveted attribute), fun and free. But on the inside, I think they’re just like me: afraid and unsure of what they could do if they tried. Pretending, even just a little bit, that they’re already there.

Then there are the ones that aren’t pretending, they’re just not public about it. It’s amazing how much we can presume about a person without seeing them behind closed doors. Whether we admit it or not, we all share this in common: we doubt ourselves. Whether it be hourly or daily or whatever, we all do it.

I’m sick of thinking everyone does it better than me. I’m over making comparisons, because obviously I never come out on top, and then I’m back to square 1 of being discouraged and not good enough. It’s getting a little old to be honest.

For me right now, it’s this blogging world that I have stumbled upon. I’m scared of this blog; of it’s potential to flop and become yet another abandoned hobby; or of the success and opportunities that it could lead to. More the latter than the former. What we are capable of is daunting, so much so that we end up not doing nothing.

Reader, you intimidate me but I want you here more than anything.

I don’t know if I’m disciplined or talented enough, and the more effort I invest, the more risk involved. I know I know, it’s not complicated, all I need to do is write. As long as I know the reason for my words and keep close to the Source that provides them, then I’m good.  It’s about keeping the main thing the main thing.

I find comfort in knowing that the women that inspire me in the blogosphere, the ones that look like they totally know what they’re doing and have a million things to say; they started out the same as me, and might still be there.

We are all in the same boat. Some further along in the journey, others just pushing out from the dock. We all have something for each other and none of us are there yet.

Let’s do this together, by stepping out individually and encouraging each other collectively.

Confession: I can’t fix myself & I don’t know everything

I like to think I’m pretty emotionally stable. I process my emotions, I don’t run away (I try not to anyway) and I cry a lot.  I’ve even been known to call myself a ‘self-analysing pro’ because I can come up with a reason for every single one of my behaviours. I’ve got my sh*t sorted right?

Wrong. Turns out I am somewhat of an ’emotional perfectionist’ (self-diagnosed, of course. See previous paragraph!). No but seriously, I like to be so in control of my feelings and know exactly why I do everything that I don’t let things happen organically.

This is my greatest blessing and my greatest curse, because while I’m very emotionally ‘in-touch’ (are you loving all this psycho-babble?) I also over-think to the point of insanity and exhaustion.

When I talk to my friends I like to sound like I’ve got it all together. Then in the dark of the night I break down, because emotions and grief work on their own schedule that you can’t really control. Turns out being human has some painful disruptions, and I don’t have my sh*t sorted at all. 

So I told my over-active mind to go on holiday and called in a professional.

Yes, I’ve started seeing a counsellor; someone who has qualifications and actually knows what he is talking about; someone who can help me fix me so I don’t have to do it all by myself.

I went to my first session with a heavy heart; I was sad, lonely and running on empty. On the journey there I prayed ‘Please Lord let this be good for me, let me gain something from this because I’m spent and don’t have any strength left’. God heard me. I sat there and released months worth of tear-stained words to someone who is paid to listen to me. I didn’t feel guilty for ‘dumping’ on him, I just went for it (pray for him, poor guy!). He helped me reach some important conclusions in that very first session and I  left feeling so light I thought I might just fly.

The second session was a little harder, grittier and a hell of a lot more painful. That’s when the good stuff happens though and hey, I’m still alive. During these sessions my pain is justified, understood and accepted, but our (my counsellor’s and mine) ambition is my healing and I’m not allowed to sit in my pain and pity for longer than necessary. I must keep moving forward.

I’d rather be dealing with this at 22 than at 42, 52, 62 when I’ve caused other people pain from my own wounded heart. Have you heard? Hurt people hurt people. All of my hurt has come from hurt people, and out of that hurt I’ve hurt more people. It’s a vicious cycle, BUT I have the power to break it and it’s my choice whether I do or not. No I won’t ever be perfect but the goal isn’t perfection, it’s wholeness in Christ so that I’m not operating everyday life out of brokenness.

You might be thinking ‘gosh she is so honest, telling the blogosphere she is screwed up enough to go to counselling’. If it helps you, then heck yes I am honest enough. Frankly we are all screwed up at least a tiny bit, even if we like to act like we’re not. It’s what makes us beautifully human. 

Here’s a tip sponsored by moi: if you have faced trials in the past that you still haven’t overcome, or if you’ve never been to a counsellor, or just think it would be good for you, then go and talk to someone. Who knows, you may only need one session, or you’ll need loads. Whatever the case, deal with your pain so that it doesn’t deal with you. Also I personally think that if you’re in a relationship then it’s even more important; there is a lot of stuff that comes up when we share our lives intimately with someone, and sometimes they can’t carry our baggage. Oh and because I don’t like to leave anyone out: if you really are emotionally stable and this doesn’t apply to you, then that is great and feel free to ignore this paragraph!

All this was to say it’s nice not having to figure everything out by myself. Yes I still have to think, feel, process. However I am externalising it in a healthy environment instead of running circles in my mind. Oh and in case you were wondering, my over-active mind came back from her holiday and then handed in her notice of resignation. Turns out I don’t need her anymore, anyway!

If you can closely relate to the above and need to talk to someone about it, then feel free email me. Sometimes it’s just nice knowing someone understands and is there to listen. 

Truth Hurts

It’s a loaded gun that holds freedom instead of bullets. Though the initial pain still hurts like an open wound,  I consider it worth it to gain that freedom. Sadly, that’s often what truth is in our lives: ugly and painful. That is until we face it and light shines upon the face of truth; we begin to see the beauty of it and living within it, instead of continuing to believe the lie that we need to be  running away from it.

The truth is different for all of us. Maybe you don’t want to even think about the truth because you aren’t able to see it anymore, or maybe your life is drenched in truth. I’m aiming for the latter of the two, so I’ve been thinking about truth a little more than normal recently.

What I’ve learnt first hand (hold your breath, this is DEEP) is that truth is truth. You can colour it in with permanent marker, you can put a blanket over it, you can ignore it, but the truth will always be there and it usually does come out eventually.

Recently I’ve been facing a few home truths. Initially it hurt more than my words can justify because it was a new fresh wound. The pain is still ever present but so is God’s love, peace, and the joy of being free. Oh the beauty of freedom; even in sadness one can’t deny it’s the most yearned for and magnificent position to be in. Nothing is worth more to me than living in the freedom of truth, but sometimes we have to experience the other side to know the difference. The crossover is painful, but once we’re there, it’s done.

That’s why Jesus came and died for us right? To be free INDEED. Instead of ‘free’ and walled up in a cage of deceit, lies and dishonesty. His dying for us brought GRACE to truth so that we could face it. His grace means that we can live in TRUTH because He has saved us.

When I say ‘truth’ I am referring to anything you know in your heart to be true, to the truth of Jesus and who He is, to the truth that is and will always be. Truth is in the light and the light will always prevail, so just do it! Live in truth.

Choose true friends that will be straight with you, love you, challenge you and encourage you. Be accountable to them.

Be courageous. Face whatever it is that you don’t want to, and everyday choose to be true to yourself and those around you.

Speak truth in love.  That doesn’t mean it’s okay to criticize and rebuke because you’re being ‘honest’ out of love – hold on to tact and only fight battles worth fighting. Many things are better left unsaid.

Build your life around it. If you choose to live with integrity in the small things then your integrity will be proven on the big things, and before you know it your life will be built on truth. Living in truth sets you and people in your life free. It gets easier and you will continue to grow and get stronger.

Make truth a habit and it will become your life.

What do you find hardest about living in truth? Have you ever had to be honest with yourself  when you really haven’t wanted to? Tell me a story about being truthful. Leave a comment!