How Do You Choose Your Friends?
I remember about 15 years ago, a new neighbor moved in next door to me and I felt an immediate kinship with her. She felt it too. She was (and still is) an amazing person and a fantastic friend, although we now find ourselves on different continents, making our conversations fewer and further in between. But I will always treasure her as a friend. Why? Because ours is a friendship based on the deeper aspects of ourselves and of our lives.
When I first befriended this wonderful woman, I had another friend that I called my “best friend”. We’ll call her Anne, though that isn’t her real name. (No need to target anyone unnecessarily!) Anne monopolized a large portion of my time. Looking back, I’m completely surprised that I considered her such a great friend. My new friend, Kim, (and that is her real name) got to know me, and also my friend Anne. Kim and I were sitting in my hot tub one night, enjoying another one of our endless, momentous conversations. She casually offered her opinion that Anne was not a good friend to me. What? I was shocked! You really think she’s not a good friend to me? Kim matter of factly explained the basis for her thoughts on the subject, and she was so right! Anne was negative and judgmental. She had a need to criticize and scrutinize everyone in her world, myself included. She disguised much of her nonsense, laughing heartily as she pointed out people’s faults and shortcomings. This new revelation about Anne began to slowly sink in with me. When I looked deeper into our relationship, I realized Kim was right. My friendship with Anne didn’t make me feel like a better person. Rather, my relationship with Anne kept me a bit off kilter. Just like she wanted it.
What I now see is that some people choose their friends based on very superficial aspects. We all tend to gravitate to people who share commonalities with us. I think that’s natural. My point of reflection here is this: Are those commonalities such things as judgment of others, haters of certain types of people, snobby attitudes, how people look, where they live, what kind of accent they have, who their family is, who they’re married to, what kind of job they have? Since I realized who Anne really was, I have paid attention to my other friends and what attraction those relationships hold for me. I see plenty of people who care far too much about the things in life that are of inconsequence to me. Things that I now refuse to spend energy on. Including people who only consider me as a friend as long as they think they are getting a benefit from me.
Nowadays, for me to really befriend someone, and for that person to be a meaningful part of my life, there are some new qualities I look for. I want to relate to my friends on a substantial level. A worthwhile level. I want the time we spend together to be spent creating new and purposeful thoughts and information. I have no desire to spend my time listening to negativity or judgment. Life is too short for that.
What defining characteristics am I attracted to in others? That list includes: kindness, joyfulness, happiness, warmth, relaxed, generous, self-confident, and open-minded.
I live in Montana now, but am from the south originally. A lady I have worked with for several months has never said a word to me until today. I was speaking to a client and this woman was close by. She turned to me and asked, “Where are you from?” I replied, “Mississippi”. She said, “Oh, I could tell by your accent!” It annoys me how people always think Mississippi is a dumb, fat state, and we all have these ridiculous accents. I inquired of her, “Are you laughing at my accent?” To which she responded, “No, I think it’s cute!” I’m thinking to myself, “Seriously woman? I don’t think your accent is cute!” And then for a tiny moment, I thought, “I hope I didn’t sound like I was being flippant”, and that’s when I realized that I would have never called attention to an aspect of her that I considered different because I look for commonalities in people, which to me exemplifies inclusion and positivity. While people like her look for differences in people, which exemplifies separation and negativity.
So, I guess my point here is that we all have many interactions and relationships on a daily basis. I think relationships are what life is all about. Do you choose to create your relationships based on meaningful and purposeful aspects or will you haphazardly let any ole Negative Nelly into your inner sanctum? Will you let others in who bring you down? Who bring others down? Most people who employ this tactic are actually just not self-confident. But, really, is there room or time in your life to spend nurturing negativity, or are you perhaps like me and at a point in your life that it seems a better program to pursue higher attributes in others? Don’t feel bad for protecting your world and yourself from those who rob you of the preciousness of life! My wonderful friend Kim also taught me that you teach people how to treat you. Teach people that you are a person of integrity. That you want your life to be a reflection of generosity, of joy, and of contributing to the greater good of our world, because you can!!