As a friend, I think it is important to listen, to actually "hear" what my friend is saying. Here are three things that I think are important to be a good friend. I know there are more things you can do, but this is a good start.
- YOUR JOB IS TO LISTEN – Most of the time, your friends simply need a sounding board, a safe person to share silent dreams and hidden fears, or just to be allowed to express feelings. When your friend calls you in crisis, not knowing how to solve a problem or wondering how to proceed in life, it is a gift to you that they feel safe enough to talk to you about their deepest, most private thoughts. You are not required to do anything more than listen.
- GIVE FEEDBACK ONLY WHEN ASKED – A healthy response could be to reflect back to her your understanding of what she needs to do to discover the best answer for herself. You might suggest that she meditate on it, write in her journal about it, or pray and ask for clarity. On the other hand, if you see your friend repeatedly experiencing hurt over the same issue, you could point out that you see her repeating a pattern and for her life to change for the better in this area, she needs to handle things differently this time.
- IF YOU CAN'T "BE THERE," BE HONEST – There will be times when you are going through your own emotional turmoil and have nothing left to give your friend in need. This is when you must be honest, even though you might have a fear that your friend might take it personally. If the friendship is strong, your friend will respect you for your truthfulness and the bond between you will grow even stronger. When you don’t express your true feelings about not having the energy to listen attentively to someone else’s problems, not only does it not help your friend, but it also can cause resentment to build inside of you. With resentment can come anger and soon you may not be friends any longer. It is better to say up front that at the moment you can’t listen and give your full attention to them because you’re consumed with your own turmoil.
Developing deep and lasting friendships is a challenge. But it is possible when both parties do the work that needs to be done for the friendship to grow and strengthen. One of the most important lessons to learn in being a good friend is to let the other person be who they are and not who you would like them to be. You might see potential in your friend to accomplish great things in her life, but that’s when the focus needs to be turned on yourself. Concentrate on your own hopes and dreams and allow her to have her own. Be there to encourage her to go after what she wants out of life. Having you as part of her support system is enough.
I am fortunate to have at least two people that I can honestly say have been there for me & I know they always will be. Of course, I try my best to reciprocate. I hope I do a good job doing so.