Let’s face it, we all need friends. Even with the hardships brought on by the pandemic, we still need to interact with our friends somehow. But it is important to recognize the good and bad friends in our lives, and how to deal with the bad ones. I have had several “bad” friends in my life. And sadly, I’ve had no choice but to hit the ejector switch on them. It was never easy. I had known some of these individuals for a long time, but ultimately, they weren’t what I originally thought (sigh). Still, I have some great friends in my life, and I’m very grateful to have them in my social circle.
There are certain things that friends should and should not do, and I want to share some of the good qualities of a friend that I’ve learned over the years.
- Support – very crucial for any friendship. They say that a true friend is there when we’ve hit rock bottom. We don’t have to reach out to them; they already know we need them. Even if we do have to reach out, they are quick to lend us their unconditional support. They will even drop whatever it is they may be doing at the time and come to your aid. Friends who don’t respond need to be seriously re-evaluated. Be especially aware of friends that try to make you feel like your rough situation is your fault. And yes, there are people out there who do this! Friends also support you when you want to make some changes in your life such as try a new hobby or take a new job far away. They should be happy about your new endeavors.
- Acceptance – friends should accept you for who you are. They should accept your flaws and not let them obstruct your friendship unless said flaws are hurting the friendship itself. No one is perfect. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and I once confided this in a friend at the time. At first, this friend accepted it, but later we had a falling out, and they referred to me as one with “severe mental problems”. The real reason for our falling out is that this person could not accept me for being different from them. True friendship means accepting those that are different from you. It also means accepting one who has had certain advantages in life: e.g. money and freedom.
- Reciprocity – Everything is a two-way street in friendship. You call them once in a while, and they do the same. Conversely, you do this when you make plans. Are you always the one reaching out this person? If so, something is not right. There has to be some reciprocal communication between you. After all, you have enough to juggle in life without having to reach out to a friend that doesn’t return the favor.
- Gratitude – a true friend will tell you that they value your friendship. They will often say ‘thanks’ for the miniscule and the monumental. Likewise, you should be grateful for their friendship. And if a friend does not reciprocate your ‘thank you’, beware! I had one who didn’t reciprocate any of my gestures of gratitude, and thankfully that person is now “somebody that I used to know” (I think I owe Gotye props for quoting this).
Now for the things that a friend should not be. You may think I’ve already pointed these out, but there’s more. I cannot stress the importance of recognizing a toxic friend. I recently listened to a podcast by a former NFL wide receiver by the name of Trent Shelton. In this podcast, he discusses how to let go of negative people in our lives. He says, “it’s crushing to know that the people you want the best for don’t always want the best for you.” The more you tolerate toxic pals in your lives, the more damage they will do. So, what are the signs of a not-so-true-friend?
- Jealousy – while it is normal to envy the things a friend has that you don’t, jealousy is 100% unhealthy. This person resents you for the advantages you have and makes you feel that you don’t deserve them, whether they show it explicitly or subtly. I had one friend who was jealous of my wealth, my freedom to travel, and my relationship with my family. In fact, it reached the point of said person often pointing out that “I have money coming out of my ass” and “your parents treat you like a baby”. This person completely overlooked the “chains” I’ve had to carry in life (and we all have them). A jealous friend is a de facto toxic friend. If they cannot accept your ‘advantages’, it’s best to move on.
- Constant Put-Downs – these are the people who question your actions and decisions. They feel like you are doing the wrong thing when in fact it’s the opposite. They are not happy for you, and what is the point of having a friend like that? You will ultimately start believing these put-downs, subsequently lowering your self-esteem. And you don’t want that.
It is also critical to be aware of friends that are self-centered, pessimistic, and have no accountability whatsoever for their actions. We all have our days where we’re down in the dumps or forget the occasional birthday, but when it’s polarized it is a different story altogether. Their negativity will eventually rub onto you.
It is very hard to have to cut out a friend, and it should be the last resort. But if you have a toxic friend that refuses to change, then…sayonara! You should be re-evaluating certain friends regularly, and you should be grateful for the good ones in your life. It’s difficult enough dealing with all the bad people in this world. And in these times, we are living in, we need to have a healthy and supportive social circle.
Sadly, I tolerated certain toxic chums for too long for the sake of having friends. I thought I could change them but later realized that you can’t change anyone; they have to change themselves. The key is to recognize the symptoms of a potentially bad friend early, and take action before they become worse: stop small problems from becoming bigger ones.
“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
– Walter Winchell