“Family is the group of people we’re born into, but friends are the family we create”. You may have heard this expression over a hundred times, but it’s helpful to think of friends in that way.
We choose friends based on what we like about them, which is often a reflection of what we like about ourselves, but having things in common also contributes to a budding friendship.
Good friends inspire us. They help us push our envelopes and step out of our comfort zones. In the best circumstances, friends contribute to our personal, emotional and spiritual growth.
Picking the right people to be friends with can be challenging, and sometimes we don’t make best choices for ourselves.
For example: how many people do you know have drinking, gambling or sex-only buddies who somehow make it okay to behave in destructive or self-disrespecting ways? Do these people really fall into the “friends” category?
Sometimes, all it takes is for one other person to bring out the worst in us; which can lead to complete disaster to ourselves and to our community
Fortunately, there are people who can help you sculpt, solidify and present your best self to the world.
In addition to family and friends, teachers, mentors, colleagues, coaches and therapists can also serve as beacons of light and hope.
But friendships formed out of mutual respect and the desire to experience deep connection with self and others are the most meaningful and transformative.
Here is a list of three essential qualities every friendship must have in order for you to be your best self within it.
#1 – Friends confide and share with each other
I’m often surprised to hear friends say to each other, “I’m sorry to dump this on you”… as if there’s nobility in keeping thoughts and feelings inside, allowing these perceptions and emotions to potentially become unmanageable and untameable.
Friends share with each other.
Friends share thoughts, ideas, emotions, food, homes, clothes and sometimes cars with each other.
When you share with your friend, you create an opportunity to deepen your connection with them, which allows the space for trust and intimacy to develop. In good relationships, it’s reciprocal.
# 2 – Friends keep things confidential
Knowing what you say to your friend without fear it’ll come back to harm you is enormously valuable.
A friend is someone you can say almost anything to because you know they won’t tell a soul.
They keep your secrets to themselves and guard them as if they were their own.
Friends have your back. They help you to feel safe and secure in the world.
Your job as THEIR friend is to treat them the same way.
Friendship is an agreement. It’s a special bond. Holding this bond makes you feel good about your friend, and about yourself.
# 3 – Friends forgive
Friends sometimes see sides of us we don’t like and maybe don’t want to see. Sometimes those parts of our personality can come out and bite both of you.
They give each other the experience of being seen, and provide the safety and space to be vulnerable and accountable.
If you do something you know was hurtful to your friend, take responsibility for it.
If there is enough value in the friendship, the offended person should be able to forgive you, unless the offensive act pushes someone to the point of no return. Theft, perhaps, is one example. An adulterous affair is another. Actions like these are not only personal violations; they’re also acts of deception.
Deception is hard to forgive. It can be done, but it requires an enormous amount of effort, sincerity and willingness to endure the process of rebuilding trust from both people involved.
If you’ve been deeply hurt by a friend and are struggling to forgive him/her, the ability to do so may lay in your overall assessment of them as individuals.
Aside from the hurt they caused, ask yourself: does this person bring something positive to your life? Is the offensive act something that can be worked through? Is there a possibility the two of you can grow stronger together and independently by working through the feelings that came up because of the hurtful act?
If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, leaning towards forgiving and working through the challenge can have a profound impact and deepen both of you.
The decision to forgive must be made carefully. However, if you do forgive, be generous about it. Forgive fully. And if you can’t forgive all at once, do it in stages and be transparent about it. You can say to yourself and to the other, I’m still hurting. This isn’t over. But I’m working on moving things forward and I need you to know that…allowing the other person to know where you stand and potentially talk more about what’s happening.
Sigmund Freud once said that “a self is co-created.” In other words, we need people to help us become the best we can be.
Friends help us accomplish this enormous task.
Friends listen, trust, and support us. They make the world a safer and saner place to be.
Friends help us feel like we’re not alone. They’re our companions.
Without question, they help us know there is a place where we belong.
We’re not meant to do life alone. Friends reflect this awareness every time we say, “hello” to them.
Joseph Eliezer is a Clinical Counsellor and Psychotherapist who helps people transform emotional, mental, and spiritual unease into confidence, clarity, prosperity, and vitality. He writes inspirational/motivational books including Simply Spirit.
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