Takes One To Know One: How to Tell You’re a Good Friend
Like romantic relationships, it bothers me when people demand behavior from others that they don’t even exhibit themselves. In a world where we’re quick to call “friend” anyone who likes more than two of our Facebook posts, I’m convinced that most of us wouldn’t recognize a friend if it were Courtney Cox or Jennifer Aniston starring in a 90’s sitcom. Worst yet, we spend so much time trying to figure out who are true friends are, that we don’t take time to see if we’re being one ourselves.
Friendship isn’t about sharing outdated memories on-line when Facebook reminds you it’s your old roommate’s birthday. It’s about truly caring about the well-being of someone DNA says you’re technically not obligated to. Here are 11 signs that you’re playing your part:
1. You care as much about their good time as your own.
I’ve had many nights when I’ve found myself being sober Susan because I was driving or going to a club listening to techno to the point where I thought I could smell colors just because my friends wanted to. Friendship isn’t always about YOU having a ball, sometimes you’ll have to tolerate a little DJ Tiesto all in the name of your friends having a good time.
2. You tell them the truth even when you know it’s not what they want to hear.
Sometimes the answer is, “Yes, girl you DO look like D.L. Hughley,” when your friend asks you if you’re feeling her new natural look. I can attest to the fact that I’m a better person for having friends who were honest with me about when I was being a jerk, when I looked a mess and what I could stand to do to improve. Many people falsely believe friendship is about co-signing on BS to feed your friends’ egos, so when some women don’t hear what they want to, they dismiss it as “hate” or jealousy. But allow me to quote some teen fantasy fiction in the name of Harry Potter: “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
3. You take risks for them.
I have control issues, so it’s really hard for me to pass my friends the baton and trust that they’ll get us over the finish line. But who you surround yourself with is a testament to your good judgment. If you continue to surround yourself by people you can’t depend on it says more about you than them. Whether your risk is leaving them with your first born or handling their maid of honor duties, you at least have to give them a chance to prove themselves before you write them off.
4. You inconvenience yourself for them.
The last way you want to spend your Sunday is helping your girl move into her new apartment, especially when you have a DVR full of Game of Thrones patiently waiting. Or maybe she lives a half hour out the way so you aren’t thrilled about battling rush hour traffic so she doesn’t have to take the train. But you put your discomfort aside and do it, because that’s what friends do. You don’t have to apologize for being tired or just not up for the favor, but friendship isn’t always about your comfort being the top priority.
5. You take their well-being personally.
You want her to leave her trifling man not because you’re tired of hearing about her problems or witnessing the drama, but because you hate to see her unhappy. Friends hurt when they see their friends hurting and they take it personally when they see them being taken advantage of or in pain.
6. You know when to fall back.
This was a lesson I had to learn myself: Sometimes you have to fall back and let your friends solve their own problems. Even if they are bringing the drama right to your doorstep, it’s not always an invitation for you to throw on your cape and save the day. Sometimes they just want you to listen. Besides, how can they ever learn to save themselves if they have their very own caped crusader for a BFF.
7. You share the blame.
Whether you’re getting chewed out by the boss or running late to a mutual friend’s wedding, good friends defend each other when they’re both in the wrong and better yet don’t pull a, “But she did it too!” when you were clearly the only one to get caught. You find out who you’re real friends are when everything isn’t all laughs and Long Island’s.
8. If you got it, they got it too.
You don’t have to make it rain on a friend who is chronically broke and isn’t even trying to get it, but like a relationship, friendship isn’t about keeping score for every movie ticket you bought or cocktail you treated your bestie to, it’s about enjoying each other’s company. You don’t have to go co-signing on a loan and ruining your good credit, but don’t chalk up a friendship just because you have to cover for a friend on an off pay week a few times.
9. You do things for them because you want to, not because you have something to prove.
A few years ago I found myself maneuvering through rush hour traffic trying to get my friend’s dying turtle to a vet she had Googled in an unfamiliar part of town. I was behind the wheel of a car that got touch-and-go after being in “Drive” for more than twenty minutes while my friend’s six-year-old son chanted in the backseat, “The turtle’s legs are falling off!” As much as I wanted to just go home and Watch some Judge Judy and take a nap, I didn’t want my friend burdened by the idea that she did nothing for the dying for the reptile.
Being a friend isn’t about feeling forced to do something or using your good deeds as collateral for future favors. Being a good friend is about coming through because you want to, not because you just want to be able to say you did.
10. You actively encourage them to grow.
I’m not saying friends should only be around if they can give you the “hook-up” or a free ride on their coat tails, but when’s the last time you took a good look at who in your circle was actually motivating you? I noticed in my late twenties how much harder it was to chase opportunities and get excited about advancing in my career and life in general when I was surrounded by people who were just existing and settling for whatever life brought them. Your crew doesn’t necessarily have to be running through the streets with you for cheesecake like you’re auditioning for Diddy, but it helps when your friends are out networking and making connections with you. They should at the very least recognize your passion and actively encourage you to pursue it. There is some truth to the saying you’re the average of the five people you’re around the most.
11. You are GENUINELY happy for them.
Whether she’s just landed that princess cut she’s been hoping her boo would propose with or she finally got that big promotion, good friends are able to be happy for each other and celebrate each other’s successes even if they aren’t feeling great about their own lives. You’re able to be happy for and with your friend because you know she deserves it, and not just play the part because you’re supposed to or don’t want to appear bitter or envious.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.