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I came across a shareable post on Facebook that rubbed me the wrong way.
The post read:
“No, friendship is not about supporting your friends even when you know they’re wrong. That’s not friendship. That’s being an enabler. That’s being an accomplice. Friendship is loving someone enough to tell them to stop being a g**damn idiot before they ruin their lives.”
The impression this left me with is that the message is saying you’re not a friend if you’re supporting someone, despite the choices they make. This post blurs the difference between supporting actions and supporting who someone is. And emphasises the importance of criticism over support.
It’s not so black and white. Friendship is both, a grey area; a happy medium that you find balance with—both the criticizing and the enabling that the post speaks of. That area between the two houses a healthy boundary. A genuine friend won’t determine the course of your friendship based on whether or not you do what they say. A genuine friend will know and respect the boundaries of the relationship.
As a friend, you should respect their freedom to choose without trying to manipulate or pressure them toward what you think is right, especially if they are going through a hard time already. Even if you may be right.
Friendship is loving someone enough to tell them that what they’re not seeing holds the potential to harm them. But friendship also includes respecting that they are on their own path, traveling their own journey.
I have lessons to learn for myself, just as my friends do. Our paths may be different, our paths may be the same. Share your cautionary tale, share your perspective—I welcome it—but don’t forget that my decisions are my choice.
I’ve been the girl who was naive and blind. I’ve been the girl who put herself in situations she shouldn’t have. But I know that these situations have nothing to do with what was ultimately right or wrong in someone’s judgement. These situations were aligned with where I was on my path. They were based on reflections of my inner self and where I was in my own personal journey. And I needed to make these mistakes in order to evolve past them. I needed the pain to teach me what not to touch.
The best friends I’ve ever had have loved me through it all, as hard as it was for them to watch me choose less than I deserved. They love me for me. They stuck around because of who I am, and not what I did. They stayed with me to keep the spirit that they fell in love with—the one that’s deep down inside of me—alive. They reminded me of who I was, time and time again. They also told me what I couldn’t see, time and time again. As a friend, I respected their opinions. And as my friend, they respected my right to choose.
Though it took years for me to apply their faith in me to my life, their words were always in the back of my mind, connecting me to the next step on my journey, while they were by my side. And I do the same for them.
Sometimes you might need to separate yourself for a while to protect your own peace. That’s fine. My friends and I have gone months to years without speaking. But when we really needed each other to be there, we picked up the phone and returned that call. We showed up.
So, no, friendship is not limited to supporting them no matter what they do. Nor is it limited to telling them that you think they’re f*cking up. Friendship is both. You can be supportive of who someone is and not what they do at the same time. You can speak your love and you can speak your raw opinion. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
A friendship that balances both is what helps people to overcome their obstacles—to grow past the choices they make that you may or may not believe in. Because you’re watering their soul by loving them anyway. Because you can’t have a friendship without love, and love is not selfish. Love does not control.
When you love someone, you respect their freedom to be themselves.
You don’t manipulate them, belittle them, put pressure on them, or try to control them. You don’t see only from where you stand; you see from where they stand, too. And if that’s not okay with you, don’t call yourself their friend.
My longest friendships have lasted 21 years and 23 years, to this day. My mom and her best friend? Forty-five years and counting! The mentality that I just expressed is exactly how we have been able to hold such long friendships. It’s is also how we are able to continue loving each other and grow through the ups and downs of life together.
That is the beautiful reward of healthy boundaries—balancing criticism and support in friendships while allowing them to be free to walk their own path.