What is a friend anyway?

I currently implement a female mentoring program after school on Thursdays. As I was planning for last week’s meeting, the activity I found really struck my mind. I found a worksheet called “Building a Buddy” that asks several questions to examine the rules of friendship. Some of the questions I posed to my girls included: “How does a friend differ from an acquaintance?”, “How does an ordinary friend differ from a best friend?”, and “Does a friend have to consider you to also be a friend?”. Out of all the questions we talked about, the one that stood out to me the most was: “What has experience taught you about friendship?”.

I used to think that friendship was defined by titles or by how long you knew someone. But I learned that that isn’t it at all. Friendship is actually mutual affection, dynamic, bond, effort, sacrifice, commitment, loyalty, honesty, and respect. Yes, friendship has levels and building takes time. But, I think the one thing I didn’t realize is that in time you constantly learn how a person is and as you learn this, you should also grow in befriending and caring for them.

I would say that although coming to this realization caused me shed tears and pain, it is one of the greatest lessons I learned in 2016. I knew that I always had trouble in friendships [and relationships for that matter] but it wasn’t until I lost a close family member last year that I realized why. Even to this day, one thing someone said at his funeral keeps repeating in my head: “This has to be a time, if no other time, that you learn something.” At the time, the only thing I could process was how much pain my family was in and how his death would drastically change a lot. But, as I spent time meditating over this repeating thought in my head, a few things became more clear to me.

Since his death was not anticipated, his wife and family were not financially prepared to cover the cost of burial services. On top of having to deal with the fact that he was no longer here, his wife was burdened with how she would deal with suddenly becoming a single mother of three and finding out how she was going to pay for his burial services. Oh, but little did she know she wouldn’t have to carry this weight on her own. In the matter of a week or so with the help of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family she had more than enough money to pay for the funeral. Almost every day someone was dropping by. People was bringing cooked dinner, coming to spend time with the kids, bringing monetary donations, etc. Isn’t He good?  On the day of the funeral, I was so surprised to see how many people showed up to support. So many of his friends and co-workers had amazing things to say about him and was more than willing to offer up their time and support to his wife and children. It didn’t dawn on me until later that this was what friendship was all about. Support, love, and care.

I contemplated whether or not this was something I should share; mainly because I still find it kind of crazy that at 24 years old, God had to teach me what friendship means. However, because of this lesson, I was able to put many of my past and current friendships [and relationships] into perspective. I learned that I am no longer okay with using history as a justification for why my dynamic in some of my friendships is not as strong, I am no longer okay with having a title without a bond, I am no longer okay with stagnancy, and most importantly I am no longer willing to lose who I am for someone else.

For these reasons, I felt that I should share. I am SO GRATEFUL to God for helping me to gain this insight. I know that having this insight won’t just up and change everything, but I am excited about this internal growth. I am happy about how moving forward will go for me.

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