There are no instruction manuals for life, right? Wrong. I have taken it upon myself to painstakingly handle this great undertaking. Here are my findings on friendship (and by “my findings” I really mean my main points strung together by what I have deemed to be meaningful quotes by people who if they were still alive and/or had blogs would be a lot more popular than myself).
Step one: BE NICE. Simple right? You would think so, wouldn’t you?! Practice that whole ‘Golden Rule’ thing (if you don’t know what the Golden Rule is- scratch out step one above- and replace it with “Go back to third grade, learn ‘Golden Rule’”- then renumber all following steps). Put your friend(s) first. Paramahansa Yogananda (a 19th Century Yogi, who wrote the book: Autobiography of a Yogi and is credited with introducing the Western world to Yoga through said book) said; “There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends. That magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first; when you learn to live for others, they will live for you.” I like this quote. But I don’t totally agree with it. You don’t always attract nice people because you are nice. Sometimes, people come to you to take advantage because they KNOW you are nice. But that is no reason to stop being nice (whomp, whomp).
After all, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said that. I think he’s right, by the way. I mean he did write Self Reliance and anyone who knows enough about that topic really must know something about life- amiright?
Sometimes, being nice is just listening, sometimes it’s more. But it’s simply doing what you would expect someone who cares about you to do. “A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often – just to save it from drying out completely.” – Pam Brown (I don’t actually know who Pam Brown is, but she sounds like a nice soccer mom/housewife who makes really good chocolate chip cookies and has those stick figure family members on the back of her Honda Odyssey). PS – what is up with those damn things? I do not care how many cats/kids you have, honestly stop doing it people.
Basically, the point I’m getting at here is just don’t be mean. “It is only the great hearted who can be true friends. The mean and cowardly, can never know what true friendship means.” (Charles Kingsley) Which brings me to my next point.
Step two: Don’t be a coward. Say how you really feel. Your friends should respect you as an individual enough to care about, respect, and value your opinion- if they don’t, you may want to start taking applications for new ones. Say how you really feel. Yes, I know I already said that- but it’s important. Friends want the absolute truth- even if/when it hurts. I know for myself, I want someone who values an alternate perspective, and challenges me to have an open mind, and think beyond my own opinion. So call it like it is – you don’t have to be nasty, but you have to be honest. Don’t just agree for the sake of agreement. If you disagree on a topic – voice it, if you need to tell them they were outta line – say it. As Plutarch said; “I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” I don’t want a replica of myself- I want someone who is a mirror to show me how I really am, and a sounding board for when I don’t know how I really should be, and a referee for when how I really am is out of bounds. But now we’re just getting too deep and sentimental for a blog post.
Step Three: Don’t Be Selfish: “A true friend is someone who is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else.” The great Len Wein said that (I don’t even really know who Len Wien is, but his last name makes me want to call him Weiner. Sorry, inappropriate. If you click his name up there it’ll tell you who he is). But whoever and wherever in the world Len Wien is (or Carmen San Diego for that matter (or Waldo)) – he is right.
True friends do a lot of really annoying crap for their friends they don’t really want to do. Like getting into a bar fight because a lesbian wants to take your friend home. Oh, not normal? Ok new example…Like listen to them compulsively talk about their new boyfriend, or listen with interest as they repeat stories when you’ve already heard them like four times (I do this to my friends pretty frequently- sorry guys), holding their hair back when they’re puking, or driving them all over because they lost their license for three months because they got 2 speeding tickets within three months when they were under twenty-one (whaaaattt?). Being thought of by someone beyond their own skin is a really powerful thing. It shows not only that they are humble, gracious and mature enough to think of you first or above themselves it shows they are willing. That speaks louder than any words can say.
Step Four: Stick Around. No one wants a part time friend. No one wants someone who only wants them when it’s easy or fits into their schedule (I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.- Robert Brault– word up man). Friendship is like any other relationship- it takes time, work, effort, energy, love, all that warm-gooey-soft stuff. But when the going gets tough- don’t bail. That’s what some people may call “whack”. “The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” (Ulysses S. Grant, the badass). Life is all fun n games…till someone loses that eye. Then what- then you need your friends. The dark days are the days you want to know you got the real deal. Like Oprah says, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo [cab], but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” (Emphasis added to bring quote into middle class, non-millionaire terms.) Let’s be real here- Oprah probably knows a thing or two about fake friends.
Step Five: Be Yourself. Your friends are your friends for a reason. They like you. Plain and simple. Ultimately, it’s really hard to be somebody you’re not- especially for a long time- like the length of a friendship (which is supposed to be a long time, unless of course someone is pretending to be someone they are not- that usually speeds up the life cycle of a friendship). Elbert Hubbard put in nicely when he said; “Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.” If your friend is your friend you want to be able to be real and know they will accept who you are.*
*Disclaimer- if who you are is a giant rabid monster- you might want to work on that. Probably no one wants to be your friend.
Finally, I don’t really think this is a step- just a sum total of things and a little common sense.
JUST TRY. Just try to be a good friend. If you follow these steps it’s really hard to not make or keep friendships. I’m not saying my steps are foolproof, I’m just saying what I think most people are like, and if you agree- that means you’re probably like that too. And if we all can agree- we all can say we all like when someone is nice to us, honest with us, sticks around with/for us, thinks of us first, and is genuine.
“Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” ~Muhammad Ali
Got any other great friendship quotes (I told you I was a quote junkie)? Any friendship peeves? Funny stories? Hit me with ’em!