The way you respond to your friends says a lot about you. It says whether you live in fear of the relationship dissolving or if you know deep down that the friendship can handle anything. It also says how in-touch you are with your friends' needs in the moment. But that can be a slippery slope.
In truth, it really isn't all that black and white, is it?
We all tell white lies. Lies that are half truths. Lies that we believe protect the sanctity of our friendship while also protecting at least a modicum our own personal integrity. Sometimes we make a choice between the two.
I'm not a researcher. I'm no expert on the way we relate to our friends. But I am a friend. I think a pretty good friend. So allow me to share what my observations are about some of the types of friends there are out there. And why they all have a role to play within the friendship circle. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
1. The kick-you-in-the-ass friend. This is the friend who isn't afraid to tell you when you're being a jerk. And then figuratively gives you the proverbial kick in the ass to help you clear your thinking. Most of us don't ever turn to such a friend. They just seem to turn up. They are there to keep us in line. Lead-ins often come in the form of: What the hell were you thinking!
2. The call-me-on-my-bullshit friend. This friend goes beyond the kick-you-in-the-ass friend. This friend refuses to take your crap, and calls you on it. A typical lead-in for this kind of friend is: You're full of shit!
3. The sweet-as-apple-pie friend. This is the friend who wouldn't say shit if her mouth was full of it. This friend only sees the good in you. Never the bad. This friend will see you as completely blameless in any situation. Handy for those moments where deep down you know you had some responsibility (as you always will) but just aren't quite ready to embrace the accountability part.
4. The misery-loves-company friend. This is the friend who has bigger problems than you do. Or at the very least, is experiencing the same misery so you can cry on each others shoulder. You turn to this friend in order to feel less lonely. Or less stupid. Because, after all, if someone else is feeling that same misery, you can't be all that bad. Right?
5. The I'm-infinitely-more-miserable-than-you friend. Do not confuse this kind of friend with the misery-loves-company friend. They are in two different dimensions. This friend is in competition with your misery. With everyone's misery. And is not afraid to tell you how much more miserable they are than you are. You turn to this friend when you want to feel better about the shittiness of what you're experiencing. Lead-ins are often a version of: If you think that's bad, listened to what happened to me!
6. The others-have-it-so-much-rougher-count-your-blessings friend. This kind of friend is the parallel Universe to the I'm-infinitely-more-miserable-than-you friend. But like all parallels, there is a major difference. This friend is not in competition with your misery. This friend is there to help you leave your pity party, whether or not you're ready to.
7. The oh-you-poor-thing friend. This is the friend who empathizes on a level that is all about joining you in the pity party stage of your situation. When you want to embrace the poor-me mantra because you're not quite ready to leave victimland just yet.
8. The I-need-your-advice friend. This is the friend who has all kinds of advice to share that's intended to help you live a better life. Not to be confused with the know-it-all friend, who always has the answers on how you should live your life even though you haven't asked, even though quite often this friend hasn't followed his/her own advice to live a better life themselves.
9. The I-need-you-to-help-me-clear-the-fog friend. A very close cousin to the I-need-your-advice friend, this is the friend that can see through the murkiness and help you to see for yourself what you should do.
10. The everything-happens-for-a-reason friend. This friend sees the purpose behind everything that happens, to you and everyone else. This friend sees the bigger picture, sees things on a grand, even Universal scale. You turn to this friend when you need clarification on why bad things happen to good people like you.
11. The time-for-an-intervention friend. Though there are various levels of this type of friend, at the most extreme, this friend sees the danger you pose to yourself and is not afraid to step in. This friend is not adverse to bringing others to step in as well. These friends care deeply for you and your well-being. This is the kind of friend you want with you when you're going out for a night on the town. These are the ones who stay sober in order to drive everyone home safely. They are the ones who aren't afraid to physically step in to stop someone else from harming or taking advantage of you.
12. The I-just-want-to-have-fun friend. This friend just wants to play. S/he doesn't take life too seriously. This friend finds it easy to laugh at his or her mistakes. Yours too. And let's face it, these kinds of friends lighten things up. Who wouldn't want that in their lives at least some of the time.
Some friends have the unique gift of being all these kinds of friends within the same conversation. Lucky you if you've got one of these friends. I mean that sincerely. Lucky you!
Though not within the same conversation, many of us are capable of being all of these kinds of friends at different times. Depending on the circumstances. Depending on how we feel in the moment. How we've been triggered. What we've just experienced ourselves. What we think our friend needs from us.
When we're in need, the stage we're in dictates the kind of friend we'll turn to. If we're hurting and want pity. Or we're angry and we want that validated. Or we've been so angry for so long we need relief. Or we want to understand what happened to us.
And if we're fortunate enough to have many friends, we can pick and choose who to talk to when we're in need of a certain response. Of course, that doesn't mean it'll be a healthy one. Especially if you're raw with emotion.
Sometimes we reach out to multiple friends within a short time frame because we're in great pain and aren't sure what we're looking for, only that we haven't yet found it.
Friends helps us feel a sense of belonging. Not fitting in. Belonging. They help us through difficult times with different skill sets. And they share in our joys and triumphs. They are important in our lives.
But we are just as important in theirs, and not just for the same reasons. Our difficulties can give them a sense of purpose. Which reinforces their sense of belonging. It's a two-way street. A reciprocation. And a perfect one, at that.
Before I sign off on this post, I'm going to give a shout out to the type of friend that most of us would never purposely call upon. The what-the-hell-were-you-thinking friend and the call-me-on-my-bullshit friend. These two deserve our respect. They are the ones who give us the wake up call we often need but seldom seek.
Can you relate to the types of friends listed above? Do you fall into one or many of those categories of friends? Maybe you have another category to share? What kind of friend do you typically call upon when you're in need?