Being A Good Friend Is Hard

Sometimes a good friend can see what we don't...
Sometimes a good friend sees what we don’t…

Good friends can often see our blind spots.  It takes courage to tell us stuff we don’t want to hear, but they are there to comfort us when life is rough.

Recently a friend shared an observation which she’d kept to herself for years. What she said kind of hurt, but I wish she’d spoken up sooner. As I thought about obsessed over it more, I cycled through the possible motivations for silence and sharing. It could be a desire to not sway my choices (though decisions made on inaccurate observations are inherently flawed.) It could be that she doubted the strength of our friendship (sometimes when told something we don’t want to acknowledge, we lash out.) Maybe she kept her silence until she thought I could handle the truth. It could be a combination of these, and other factors. I try not to dwell on the reasons I cannot know, and instead, appreciate the fact she finally did speak up.

Sometimes life feels like a corn maze.  The greater design of my life is a mystery to me. I’m so focused on the day-to-day that I can’t see anything beyond the space my feet occupy.  Actually, I tend to see what I want to and rationalize the rest. That’s where a good friend can be invaluable.

Offering superficial approval, passive agreement, and placating compliments is easy. Being a good friend is hard.

My hope is that we can all have a good friend- and be a good friend to someone.

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38 thoughts on “Being A Good Friend Is Hard

  1. Buddy January 5, 2015 / 7:51 AM

    True friendship trucks right along and does not care about time or distance. That, in and if itself, is pretty cool!

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:20 AM

      So true, Buddy! Glad you stopped by… I know you have a lot going on right now 🙂

  2. suzicate January 5, 2015 / 7:54 AM

    There is definitely a difference between a deep friendship and a superficial one. Honest relationships can hurt the ego but they are the ones who are there good or bad.

  3. nrhatch January 5, 2015 / 8:56 AM

    “Offering superficial approval, passive agreement, and placating compliments is easy. Being a good friend is hard.”

    Yup. Even when friends ask us to “be honest” . . . they don’t always mean it. Instead of thanking us for honest candor, they may lash out or turn their backs on us.

    That happened to me once when a friend asked me what I thought of the guy she was dating. Everyone else lied to her and said he was wonderful. I told her that I thought he was selfish and full of himself. When he dumped her a few months later, everyone else admitted that they had NEVER liked him, that she was better off without him, etc. And she was OK with that. Even though she KNEW they had intentionally lied to her . . . she was OK with their dishonesty.

    She was NOT OK with my honesty. And she gave me the cold shoulder for YEARS.

    An eye opening experience.

    In the end, I decided that being honest with friends is more important than lying to gain their approval. If they don’t want to remain friends with me because I give them honest feedback, that’s OK. I’m not willing to sacrifice my values for a pseudo-friendship based on mutual distrust.

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:25 AM

      That’s a tough situation, Nancy. I had a friend in college who asked me what I thought of her boyfriend (he gave me a scary gang member vibe) – she told him I said that! I was right- he did turn out to be scary. We stayed friends a while longer, but it wasn’t a lasting friendship. I think maintaining honesty is the better way to go. If nothing else, it’s a good way to weed the friend garden 🙂

  4. momsomniac January 5, 2015 / 9:35 AM

    In the vein of this piece, is there a way to light a fire under you to finish a novel? My reasons are selfish, I admit – I want to read YOUR novel. Since we are being honest ;), I don’t know you in real life, so there is no reason for me to praise and compliment you. I just want to read the darn thing! Wah!

    Anyway – good for you for knowing the value of a good friend. Her reasons for not sharing sooner are likely her own and not about you. Sometimes we ARE afraid of the response but it’s not because we don’t love the person, but because we do and we are afraid they may not love us back if we say something that is hard to hear. It doesn’t matter if they’ve never shown behavior that would lead us to believe this could happen – we just cannot stand to risk the possibility of loss. She probably finally decided that she cared about you too much for that fear to over-ride your best interests.

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:27 AM

      Your comment made me smile, Momsomniac. I do want to get back to that, but I have some issues going on right now that are distracting me. Hope to find resolution in the coming months.

      It’s funny, because even with what she said, I wasn’t all that surprised. I sensed her feelings but never asked her because I didn’t want to know for sure. I’m not upset with her at all. I’m more upset with myself 🙂

  5. Debbie January 5, 2015 / 9:42 AM

    You’re so right, Janna. Being a good friend is hard. It’s hard to see someone you care about riding the Struggle Bus! Hard to know when to speak up (and how to say things so as not to crush someone’s spirit). Hard to be on the receiving end of such well-meaning advice, too.

    I guess we can all be glad when we find someone brave enough to tell us the truth as they see it. (And we can only hope they cushion it with as much sensitivity as we need!)

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:28 AM

      I don’t think I could handle harshly-delivered truth, Debbie, so you’re right – some tact is definitely a beneficial thing 🙂

  6. Sean January 5, 2015 / 12:27 PM

    I like your picture. The solitary tire tracks show the road less traveled which fits this so well. I know I struggle with being that type of friend as I don’t like to see friends hurt. Thank you for the post.

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:31 AM

      No, we don’t like to see friends hurt, but sometimes, revealing a truth might hurt in the beginning, but will help them in the long-run. If that makes any sense. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Sean!

  7. thepaperbutterfly January 5, 2015 / 7:36 PM

    I have some very good friends, and I’m so thankful for that. I remember the last time a good friend told me something painful, and after I stopped to consider it I saw she was right. We are all thoroughly biased to our own POV and we’ve been thinking a certain way forever so it’s easy to miss things. Every now and then I check my behavior so I’m not copying an annoying or hurtful trait I’ve seen in others. Deep down I do want to be a good person, and so I’m always trying to improve.

    As an example because this is something I’m trying to change, I have a bad habit of rewriting people’s stories. It’s easier to get a point across that way. I don’t do huge chunks, just rewriting lines here and there. Then someone came and rewrote a 500 word intro of mine, and it annoyed the hell out of me 😄 Also, he butchered the prose. . . But he thought he was helping me. So then I stopped and realized maybe it was offensive to others when I rewrote specific lines. It’s arrogant in a way because it’s asserting that your writing and prose are better I didn’t see it like that till it happened to me. I’ll admit I was wrong. My intention was only to help others, but there are better ways to do so.

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:35 AM

      I’m glad you have friends that look out for you Paper Butterfly. I can relate to the writing thing. I don’t like reading things for others because of this, but I have done it on occasion. There is so much subjectivity in writing, it’s hard to know what is the “right” way to communicate a story. It’s good it made you look at your own practice… some people are blind when it comes to their own possible issues 🙂

  8. pattisj January 5, 2015 / 10:50 PM

    I’m glad you have a good, true friend.

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:36 AM

      I don’t have too many I call good friends, but I treasure the few I do have, Patti 🙂

  9. mbarkersimpson January 6, 2015 / 3:44 AM

    This has happened to me so many times and each time I’m left reeling. I’ve found that the friendships we make later in life are harder, because people can be hesitant to rock the boat, as it were, and don’t have enough of a shared history. There are exceptions to this, the people you meet who you feel you’ve known all your life and where honesty is the foundation – those are valuable friendships indeed 🙂 I have a tendency to be a loner, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value my friends, and it takes a good one to tell me to ‘get my head out of the clouds’ (I’m being polite there!).

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:38 AM

      Haha, sometimes we do need reminders to get our feet on the ground, Mel! I don’t have too many friends because I tend to keep to myself as well. This friend I wrote of here is one I met in college… not saying how long ago that was exactly, but it may have been close to twenty years ago 🙂

  10. GodGirl January 6, 2015 / 4:04 AM

    Very thought-provoking, Janna. Yes, there are many reasons we don’t speak up. I know I can be quite hesitant when it comes to honesty in friendships. I think there’s always a fine line between honesty that hurts and doesn’t help, and honesty that helps your friend improve and grow. Not all people are open to honesty too, and it can be hard to know if they’re ready for what you have to say as a friend…
    Anyway, I’m glad you had that conversation with your friend, even though it was hard. I like what you say about friends helping us to see beyond ourselves. Imagine if we didn’t have their input?

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:40 AM

      Yes, we do have to be careful about what types of observations we share and the timing, GodGirl. In my case, I may not have been as receptive to it a year ago. Things change, though. An outsider’s input is valuable, indeed 🙂

  11. joannesisco January 6, 2015 / 5:33 AM

    You nailed it – “Offering superficial approval, passive agreement, and placating compliments is easy. Being a good friend is hard”. More often that not, it’s not *what* has been said, but rather *how* and *when* it was delivered.

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:41 AM

      You’re right, Joanne. A good, accurate observation delivered harshly will not be as effective as one shared with kindness.

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:42 AM

      She’s put up with me for many years now, so I think we’ll definitely stay in touch 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Kathy!

  12. newwhitebear January 6, 2015 / 12:53 PM

    A Friend Is a Treasure.
    Unfortunately they are few

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 12:44 AM

      True, a good friend is rare, Newwhitebear. I have many more acquaintance type friends, but they don’t know me well enough to offer insight.

  13. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) January 7, 2015 / 1:14 AM

    Yes . true friendship goes much deeper than the superficial approval.. but how many honest friends can one person have?

    • jannatwrites January 7, 2015 / 1:16 AM

      Good question, Bjorn. I think it depends on how open the person is. I’m not that open, so I’d say I have between one and three- and they vary in degrees of honesty that I think we’d share.

  14. Imelda January 11, 2015 / 4:18 PM

    All things/ relationships that are worthwhile require a lot of challenge. I may not be the best qualified to say this but I’ll say it anyway – I am fairly certain that your friend had your interest at heart when she did what she did in this case.

    having said that, I know how hurting comments can be even when they are said in the kindest way possible.

    here’s to friendships that remain strong and true in all circumstances.

    • jannatwrites January 13, 2015 / 8:35 AM

      I do think my friend was looking out for me, Imelda, so there are no hard feelings. It is true that relationships do take work… some times more than others.

  15. pattyabr January 11, 2015 / 8:30 PM

    I can tell you are a good friend, because you are a loyal blog follower. You are introspective which is good, but don’t over think it. Life is a journey a learning process to integrate, learn, grow and move on. Happy New Year!

    • jannatwrites January 13, 2015 / 8:36 AM

      I do tend to over think things, Patty. Or worse, read too much into what is said or done. I hope you have a happy new year, too!

  16. agjorgenson January 15, 2015 / 6:36 PM

    A friend of mine says that friends tell friends what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. But I agree, that is a touch row to hoe.

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2015 / 12:09 AM

      We must find the balance and how to be truthful but kind… not always easy.

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