“I don’t ask for perfection, or to be understood. I don’t need people to sympathize with me, or to say the right thing. I just need those I love to love me in return.”
These are the words I wrote in my journal on a dark day as I battled with depression. It’s one thing to battle with difficult thoughts and feelings, but it’s completely another fight altogether to truly believe that no one really cares.
Every person has a deep need to be loved.
Rejection cuts deeper and leaves more scars than any other pain we can ever endure. It makes us feel unlovable – like we are not worth caring for.
In a society where our deepest talks are about movies and sporting events, where our closest connections to others are online, and where the only person who really listens is the one you’re paying to council you, is it at all a surprise that so many feel hopeless? Is it really that big of a shock that so many are depressed?
So how can we learn to be friends who don’t just hang out when things are good, but who hang in there when they aren’t? How can we show real love and loyalty to our friends, in a day and age where love means sex and loyalty is what we feel for our coffee brand? I came up with ten ideas that have been helpful to me, hopefully they can encourage others to reach out and be there for each other.
- Be available – I find it very sad that we have time for so many “things” yet so little time for people. I have time to check my Facebook each morning and evening (some even have time to engage in endless comment wars about politics). I have time to pick up my coffee on the way to every social event or outing. I have time to do my makeup and hair, go to the gym, watch my favourite shows on netflix, browse thrift shops and other stores for knickknacks I really don’t need. But we don’t have time for PEOPLE. Making time for the people in your life is the greatest gift you can give them. Saying no to other things can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that every “yes”‘we give to another commitment, is actually a “no” to the people already in our lives.
- Learn to ask: “Are you OK?” Sometimes it’s awkward to start up a serious conversation, I get it. But in order to really care for each other, we just have to get past those uncomfortable feelings and just care for each other. Be sensitive in the timing of this, no one likes a downer or to be put on the spot in front of a group. But the fact is that most of us don’t even know who around us is struggling! How are we to reach out if we never bother to ask?
- Listen more than talk – I’m terrible at this. When someone is sharing, it’s so easy to cut in trying to relate to what they’re saying! Relating to each other is important, but when someone is sharing about their struggles, sometimes it’s best just to listen and say nothing at all. There usually isn’t the perfect thing to say, but realize that it’s your presence – just being there and listening – that is usually what’s needed the most.
- Forgive!!! People who are hurting, will say hurtful things… Forgive them and love them anyways. Try to see the deep need behind the hurtful behaviour and you will find yourself feeling compassion rather than anger or judgement.
- Be Sensitive- If now’s not the time to share your “solutions” to their problems or to point out their wrongful attitude on an issue, be compassionate enough to hold your tongue. There may be times that it’s appropriate to give advice or to gently offer correction, but be sensitive to your timing! If your friend is opening up about his/her struggles, remember that they are most likely just looking for support and a listening ear, not a know-it-all answer (this one I learnt the hard way🤦🏼♀️). If they are having an emotional breakdown, now’s not the time to tell them how their actions look!! Respond in an understanding and calming way, so they will not feel isolated or attacked. Most likely their body is already in Flight, Fight or Freeze mode. Their mind is telling them that there is an emergency and their body is acting accordingly. So the best way to support and bring them back, is to calmly and gently speak to them.
- Pay Attention- Look for any warning signs that this situation may be beyond your ability to deal with. Don’t be afraid to get help if it’s too much! If your friend is talking of suicide, or harming themselves/others bring them into the hospital or call a crisis centre. You may just save their life!
- Don’t Gossip- Look, I understand that listening is important. But letting your friend go on and on, gossiping about someone has hurt them is not going to help them! In fact, it is just going to drive the hurt in deeper. If it is an abusive situation, they absolutely need to talk about it and you need to encourage them to get help. Otherwise encourage them to share their hurt/feelings, without slandering the people in their lives! Draw their focus away from the person who hurt them, onto the lies that they may be believing as a result of the hurt that was caused. Then speak truth to them! Ex: “They may have told you that you are ________…but it’s not true!! I know that because __________!”
- Be Intentional- Being a good friend doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional practice! Being intentional means going beyond what’s required of you. It means taking the time to care for others, even before they’ve asked. It means caring for needs that your friend may not even realize they have!
- Follow Up- One of most touching things we can do for a friend is to follow up with what they’ve already shared with us. Sometimes we have heartfelt conversations, but then we go on with life and forget all about the struggles our loved ones are going through. It is so important to remember to check in. For example, if a friend shared with you that she’s going for counseling, follow up! Ask her how it went, ask her if it’s helping. If they share their struggles in parenting, ask how it’s going, if they’ve found a solution to the issues they faced! It’s not that difficult to do, but it’s just a matter of taking the time to do it!
- Help them out Practically- Do for them what you appreciate done for you. It’s that simple! If you wish you could get a day off once in a while, offer to watch your friends kids for the day so she can have one. Do you feel loved when someone stops in with your favorite coffee? Bring him one! Some days do you just need someone to sit by you and give you a shoulder to cry on? Be that person for someone else.
Loyal friends are hard to find, but the best way of finding them, is being one yourself.
I’m sure there are many other ways to be a faithful friend! Do you have other ideas on how to show love and loyalty to those around you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!