I’ve been thinking a lot lately what it means to be a friend. In my experience, friends are those who listen, who make you laugh, who get you to take yourself seriously, and who advise you against making bad decisions. They are the ones we turn to when the day gets rough. They are the ones we seek out when boredom strikes, or when the weekend arrives, or when something big happens that demands a celebration. Friends are a BIG part of our lives.
If I’m honest, I’m a bit selfish when it comes to friendships. I’m drawn to psychology and I absolutely love delving into the inner realms of any person. What makes a person tick? What do they like? Dislike? I’d like to know absolutely everything about everyone BUT I’m also the last person to open up to others. Which I suppose makes me something like a gentle parasite: gleaning off of others, learning all I can but giving little of myself in return.
My questions abound… How does a friend act? How should a good friend act? What do I say, share, repeat? When am I allowed to keep secrets, to keep parts of me safe and private? Where are those lines, those boundaries, those places that should be saved only for God?
My biggest question for today: are all friendships equal?
Clearly, no. My friendship with my family is very different from my friendships with my housemates. And those friendships are very different from my friendship with my boyfriend which is also very different from my friendships with all of my coworkers and students and neighbors and church. Each friendship is unique and I interact with each person in a very unique way. Friendships are much like a fingerprint or a snowflake—no two are the same. And I shouldn’t expect them to be.
I’ve also come to realize that with each relationship I have, I give a little bit of myself to that person. As a gift, I offer a piece of my heart in exchange for a piece of yours. To some, I give more. To others, just a little piece. I can’t give all of me to everyone. But even though I may ration out those little heart pieces and hoard them like a little squirrel, it’s impossible not share my heart with those I call friends. I’m connected to you. There’s no turning back, no refunds, no gift returns.
Which is why absence and lies and disappointment hit so hard—the heart is deeply involved. Friends know us best, yes, but they are also the ones who can hurt us the most.
My wisdom then for today is simply this: Be careful who you give your heart pieces to.
Those are gifts you can’t take back. But they’re also gifts that connect you to a network of people who cherish you in unique and wonderful ways. Friends are incredibly important, so treasure their place in your life. And your place in theirs.