No manuals exist on the art of cultivating and maintaining a lasting friendship. Like a beautiful garden, not only must the seeds be planted but also the soil tended, weeded, loved and protected. So often the friendship seeds are planted and then left to grow wild—where weeds can choke their beauty. Friendships are not work, as the seeds grow into beautiful flowers all on their own. Their beauty can be seen more easily in a well tended garden, though.
Be a good friend to yourself first.
As an only child, I took my friendships seriously. Unfortunately, my craving for companionship and fear of abandonment meant I endured toxic friendships to keep the peace. I confused being needed in a crisis with being a good friend, and I tolerated competitiveness, pettiness, and a general lack of kindness. My loyalty to others often meant a disloyalty to myself. In truth, I was not a good friend to myself because I failed to advocate for my own needs and boundaries. Good friends, I now know, understand this for themselves and their friendships.
Good friends don’t steal your thunder, your dream vacations, or your ideas. They don't hijack your victories or hold your secrets ransom. They don’t compete, compare, or diminish your achievements. They also never ask you if you use botox in your headshot because your face looks fat, or fail to call you when they are visiting your city, especially if you helped them plan the trip. They do acknowledge your notes, messages, and texts to say hello, and notice if you haven’t called in a while. They might call and check on you if you’ve mentioned your life is falling apart, or at least not wait over two years until their life is falling apart to do so. Good friends won't take advantage of your professional skills for free and then turn around and pay someone else for the same services without even a referral to you.
If you are a good friend to yourself, you won't tolerate this behavior, either.
We’ve heard the adages about friends who are silver and those who are gold. And we’ve heard that we learn who our true friends are in times of crisis. I bless all the friendships past for what they taught me, and how they have supported me on my journey. Without them, I would not be the peaceful, joyful person I am today. In turn, I hope I have equally provided growth and love to them. We humans are in this adventure together, and what we share connects us all.
Like romantic relationships, friendships have a cycle, too. We cannot freeze a sunset, but we can find comfort in its constant cycles and ephemeral beauty. If we understand the golden rule to treat others as we wish to be treated, we can extend it to the platinum rule, too: Be the friend to yourself that you would be for others. True kindness comes when we advocate for ourselves, choose that which supports us, and release with love all that has taught us but no longer nurtures us.