Yesterday my boyfriend said one of the most poignant things anyone has ever said to me: "If you are defined by the friends you keep, then you win that." He elaborated further and said, "to keep friends is very different from to have friends." He's right because for me, have suggests possession and something that could be fleeting or temporary. Keep makes me think of keeping track of something important, making sure not to lose that, and treasuring it. Having friends can be one sided, while being able to keep friends denotes a deep mutuality of give and take. You can have a friend, but can you keep a friend?
Characteristics of Long-Lasting Friendships That Keep
1. Steadfast support. My friends support me when I am down, when I am lost, when I struggle, and also when I succeed. You can call the friends you keep for help and they expect nothing in return.
2. You celebrate each other's successes. The friends you keep unselfishly celebrate your successes. They are equally excited or even more thrilled about your triumphs than you are. You are not jealous of each other's accomplishments.
3. You can laugh at any situation no matter how tragic, frustrating or confusing. Recently, I went to be with my dear friend who had just lost her husband in a tragic accident. I told her, "Don't worry, you will not be alone. I will marry you!" She exhaled a deep belly laugh and we had a much needed laugh together amidst the sadness.
4. The bond never dies. Physical distance prevents me from seeing many friends on a regular basis. Months or years can pass, but when we see each other, it is like no time has passed at all.
5. You clear space with each other when needed. You are honest with each other. If something hurts you or bothers you, you have the courage to clear that away with one another, and create new space for your friendship to flourish.
6. You let go of some friendships. Just like romantic relationships, friendships can become stagnant or unhealthy too. Or, you can simply grow-apart. You have the courage to "break-up" with this friend. Or if the relationship naturally fizzles, you release yourself from feeling guilty about it. You accept that you can't keep every friend that you have ever had. And letting go of friends that you have had throughout your lifetime, gives way to a greater capacity to keep your current and future friendships.
7. You forgive. You forgive when your friend doesn't have the capacity to ask for forgiveness.
8. Boundaries. Every relationship needs boundaries to flourish. If your friend is going through a difficult time that triggers something painful for you, you still support them. You just tell them that you have to support them with some distance.
9. You drop everything and just show-up when you need each other. A friend calls you crying over a breakup or getting laid off at work, you drop your plans that night, and have a girl's night in instead. A tragedy happens and you just simply show-up with your physical and/or emotional presence. You don't just text or email, you pick up the phone and call. You show-up for them in-person when you can.
10. The friends you keep form friendships with the other friends you keep. My favorite place that this happens is at weddings. I have gone to weddings solo, shared a room with the bride's friends, and we have become immediate and fast friends.
I am truly blessed to keep wonderful and amazing friends. I treasure them with all of my heart. Throughout my life there have also been friendships that I have not able to keep, but that I look back on them with deep affection. And, still some other friendships that I have had, which I am quite content with not having anymore. If I am defined by the friends I keep, then I am humbled because that means I can define myself with kindness, hilarity, adventurousness, curiosity, compassion, a driven nature, openness, and intelligence. If you can be defined by the friends you keep, then how are you defined?
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