How to be a good friend

Dear Daughter,

Friendship is difficult. Especially among women. You’re already experiencing some of those difficulties at a young age, and that makes me sad but it’s all the more reason for me to coach you through it now.

I have learned a LOT about friendship, mainly through mistakes I’ve made, because there were plenty. I think being so close with my sister actually made me a bad friend to others when I was young. I didn’t really need anyone else because I had her. So friends were dispensable to me. Once I got to really know someone and all their faults, I’d walk away from them. I only wanted the fun, nice parts of friendship, not the raw, gritty parts. If only I’d known then that such an attitude would hurt me in the long run.

After college, I returned to my hometown, pregnant and unmarried. My sister lived hundreds of miles away from me at that point, and I had abandoned (or at best lost touch with) all of my childhood friends. I was all alone, at a time when I needed friends more than anything.

I went to church and made new friends that way. Only this time I carried with me a new approach. This time I would be committed to my friends; I wouldn’t leave them when times got tough. I wasn’t perfect at this, but there was a big improvement from the friendships of my youth. What became clear to me is that sticking with someone, flaws and all, made us closer and therefore made life richer. All those years I thought I was protecting myself from hardship and pain, and maybe I was a little bit, but I was also keeping myself from true connection and unconditional love.

Three years ago I moved to a new area, once again without knowing anyone, and once again I got connected to a church (are you sensing a pattern here?), where I made tons of friends who are now like family. There are times when I tend to revert back to my old ways, when I want to run away because things aren’t peachy keen. But then I remember back to when doing so caused me only loneliness and heartache. So I dig in and embrace my friendships, flawed as they are.

I’ll close with a story that I think best defines friendship. When I was 16 years old, I broke my nose. In the week that followed, I was in tremendous pain and my nose swelled to the size of Texas. That Saturday, I had a color guard competition, and while my nose was okay enough for me to compete, I had to wear a stupid band-aid on it all day. I felt ugly and insecure. When I showed up to the school that morning, five of my closest friends greeted me… and they each had a band-aid on their nose. They knew how humiliated I was and they were going to humiliate themselves right along with me. I had never experienced such a loving gesture of solidarity in my life. And clearly, I’ll never forget it.

Daughter, I hope that you will be the one wearing a band-aid on your nose when your friend is feeling ugly and insecure. I hope you’ll stick with your friends through thick and thin. Your life will only be better because of it. Friendship sure is messy sometimes, but it’s also one of life’s greatest blessings.

Love,
Mom

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mary Beth
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 09:55:33

    I was just talking to a friend about this- I had no idea how badly I would need my friends later in life. My first year of marriage I felt so lonely, even though Josh is a great friend, I was really struggling missing my girlfriends. I think they assumed I was busy being married and starting a new life. I really learned how to befriend someone who is lonely from that experience. Very well said Julia. This blog is a priceless gift…

    Reply

    • letterstodaughter
      Sep 07, 2011 @ 11:46:44

      Mary Beth, I actually started to write a paragraph on how much my attitude about friendship changed after I got married. (But then the post would have been too long so I deleted it.) I pretty much abandoned my friends once I got married. One day my husband said he was going to be working on a Friday night, so he suggested I get together with “the girls.” I almost started crying because I no longer felt close enough to “the girls” to just call them up and invite them to hang out with me. That was a huge wake-up call for me, and since then I’ve been very intentional about getting together with my friends as much as possible (while still having a healthy marriage!). The only thing that makes me sad now is that you’re too far away to be a part of that group! 😦

      Reply

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