Forging meaningful friendship is a center point throughout our lives. Yet, is making friends any easier as an adult than it was back in grade school?
My daughter started middle school this year. She’s at a new school, has a plethora of new responsibilities, and is navigating the complex world of creating meaningful friendships. I think most of us can recall just how overwhelming and at times, down right cruel the world felt in middle school. Those were tough times but as in every chapter of life, they gave us an opportunity to learn more about ourselves.
In one of my recent daily discussions with my daughter on what it really means to be a friend, I realized something profound. Not much changes throughout the course of our lives when it comes to making lasting friendships. We may encounter people with whom we instantaneously connect; yet for most of us, those are rare. Most relationships take time to develop and hence, discernment from us on what exactly we want from a friend.
How do you define friendship
If we want friendships to flourish, we first have to know how we define them. What does it mean to you to be a friend? What are you seeking from others and what space are you willing to give others in your life?
For me, the definition of friendship is simple, yet deep. Sharing a few interests or liking some of the same activities doesn’t cut it. Like most every other area of my life, I have high standards. This doesn’t only mean standards I place upon others, but more importantly, standards I place upon myself.
our life experiences shape us
Before I venture into how to create authentic friendships in your later years, I think it’s important I share a little bit of my story with you.
I was a shy kid (yes…that is hard to believe but 100% truth). I clung to my mother’s leg the first day of school and kept to a small group of girlfriends throughout grade school.
In my early teens, as I began to develop physically, I was given a lot of attention. I was what you would call an “early bloomer”. Outside of my tight knit circle, the girls were generally ugly to me. The boys, on the other hand, flocked to me. Suffice it to say, this experience led me to be more of a “guys gal” than someone who hung in large circles of women.
My high school days were spent with a handful of girlfriends I had befriended in junior high but I mostly enjoyed hanging out with the guys. The same was true for my college years. Although I was in a sorority, I tended to spend most of my time alone, or with a small group of longtime friends.
then and now
When I look back on those years, I can clearly define why. I like simple. For me, guys were simple. No drama, no frivolous conversations and no jealousy. They more readily fell into my current day principles for friendship, although at that time, I had no idea what those principles were. Heck, in high school I wasn’t really aware I had any and just accepted things were as they were by chance. But, one thing was certain, I wasn’t willing to put up with much crap. For the record, that hasn’t changed.
Now, at age 45, I can define my principles for friendship with conviction. I believe these were always engrained in me but it just took over 40 years, and a mountain of experiences to help me put them into words.
3 Principles of Meaningful friendship
The principles I use to measure all relationships in my life come down to 3 simple, yet difficult things…
1. Be kind
2. Remove yourself from judgment
3. Be authentic
Being kind isn’t as simple as it sounds when we are allowing people into our lives that we don’t value. Talking about them behind their back is what happens when we aren’t aligned with the right people. Most of us don’t set out to be unkind, but it happens when we are surrounding ourselves with others we shouldn’t be. Don’t waste your time with unkind people or those you find it difficult to be kind to.
Removing judgement will never happen for us in entirety. The fact is, we all judge in seemingly small ways each and every day. When we have created friendships that are based in kindness and truth however, we will pass less judgement on one another. If someone is judging you, they are not an authentic friend.
Being completely and utterly who we are isn’t always easy. We fear being vulnerable or being judged. But with meaningful friendships, we can push these fears aside. We can say and be who we were made to be without shame. Surround yourself only with those who accept and love you for who you are.
meaningful friendship takes time
So after nearly 4 decades of creating friendship, I have gained tremendous strength and wisdom. But, the only thing that has really changed is I am now aware. I am aware of how I define friendship and I’m discerning with whom I am willing to create it. I refuse to abandon my standards and I would rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t share them.
Authentic friendship is created. It isn’t something that just happens due to shared proximity or interests. It isn’t measured in the amount of time spent together or alignment of all your beliefs. In fact, most of my friends share opposite political views than my own. Not many share my religious beliefs and rarely do I get to spend as much time with them as I would like. Authentic friendship actually transcends those things.
While I have a mountain of acquaintances, I can count my most meaningful friendships on two hands. Kindness, lack of judgement and authenticity prevail in all of those friendships. I am thankful to say I have made some of my best friendships after I turned 40!
What are your principles for friendship? Life is so short. Spend time with those who are kind, free from judgement and allow you to be who you really are.
Owner, Creator EML