The Best Friend One Can Be

BFF.  Bestie.  “People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend….” (“Courtship of Eddie’s Father” for those of us who remember the TV show theme.)

What kind of friend do you want to be?  Answer that with your response to “What kind of person do you consider a friend?”

When I was first dating my wife, I asked her how many true friends she had.  Her answer rattled me.  “Well, not many.  In my mind, a friend is someone who will die for you.”

Well.

We’ve all had “friends” who we are convenient for:

  • The *friend* you haven’t heard from in nine years.  iPhone vibrates.  “Hey, how are you??!! I’ve been thinking about you lately.  How are you?  How’s the family? (long pause) I’d like to tell you about something I’m involved in.  Can I share with you?” (Sales pitch for their new business or multi-level marketing product ensues. It’s a cold call, that’s all.)  “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
  • The *friend* who calls you up, sounds off about their life, drama, and difficulties for an hour then finally says, “So how’s it going with you?” Five minutes later after you’ve started to answer and bleed, “Well, I’ve got to get going.”
  • The *friend* who uses you as a sounding board. (Wannabe ministers are good for this.)  They preach their sermon and you are their congregation.  I had one *friend* literally not respond at all when I told them my stepfather passed away.  No affect.  Nothing.  After he had preached of course.
  • The *friend* who is there while you’re providing them a service or helping them build their business, their brand, or their empire. Then they’re gone and you don’t hear from them again.  Until, of course, they need your help and skill.

This cuts both ways.  Are you the kind of *friend* who finds people convenient rather than valuable?  Don’t lie.

Maybe we use the word friend in the same meaningless way we say “awesome” to everything.  Such friends might better be called associates, acquaintances or colleagues, even peeps.  Don’t ruin something as beautiful as the word “friend” misapplying to people like this or to you if it fits.  Nobody likes to be used.

This is what friends do:

  • They ask you how you are doing and then listen.
  • They really want nothing from you except you.
  • They call out the best in you and call you out when you’re quitting and wrecking your life.
  • They’re the ones who stick around when the train derails. They help put the cars back on the tracks.

“When you win in politics, you hear from everybody.  When you lose, you hear from your friends.” (Richard M. Nixon after he resigned as President of the United States)

Have you friends?

 

Suggested Resources:

The Chosen (Chaim Potok)

“Brian’s Song” (the original 1971 film)

 

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If You Have to Correct, Be Decent About It

Correction with graceThree years ago, I changed departments within my company. I accepted the new assignment, welcoming the chance for advancement as well the challenge of learning a new skill set. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years.

I work in Information Technology. IT is a field that is characterized by regular innovation and obsolescence, multiple problem-solving opportunities and, if done well, precision. I work in the Quality Assurance department of our company. It is the task of my very able colleagues and I to assure that the product we deliver to our clients (Fortune 500 companies and others) is of the highest quality and functions flawlessly. In a word, our work has to be perfect. Or as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

This means that the regular requirement of my job involves inspecting the work of my colleagues and calling them over to my desk to go over what they’ve submitted, praising wherever possible, but also pointing out errors and mistakes, how to correct them and improve the overall quality of their work.

We have an office full of winsome and intelligent professionals who take their work very seriously and are sensitive to any shortcomings in what they produce. I’ve watched as some of them look crestfallen —furrowed brow and all—when I’ve brought an error to their attention. I try not to be calloused when dealing with people. Ask those who know me. They’ll tell you. Especially when I have to look in the eyes of the one I am critiquing. I fall all over myself, feeling bad that I have to take some sunshine out of their day.

Real correction is not a picnic. Real, meaning when you have to look square in the eyes of someone and smell their perfume, cologne or even their breath.

I must tell you that this has given me an entirely different perspective on the often irresponsible practice of criticizing another human being who doesn’t happen to be in the same room, out of earshot and eye contact.

I try to critique those for whom I’m responsible with as much grace as is humanly possible. I have to look them in the eye when I do it. It’s really easy to be a critic when those who are the target of your criticisms will never be within breathing distance. That’s like shooting fish in a pail. No challenge. No intelligence needed. And often, given the nature of the criticisms, no intelligence involved at any stage.

Maybe this should be the benchmark for our often glib and sloppy criticisms of people and stuff. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21) the Scriptures inform us. Can you look the person in the eye? Would you….?

Think about it: How quickly would I criticize someone (a politician, a performing artist, a minister, a member of my circle) if I was required look them in the eye when critiquing? Just like I have to do each day with my co-workers. I’ve found that showing genuine appreciation wherever possible creates life. In others and in me. And it makes the corrections a lot more palatable.

As a man named Paul once wrote, “…speak the truth in love.”

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A Friend Is A Sheltering Tree

I spent part of this evening helping a friend of mine move.  He’s headed 800 miles south, to warmer weather and a new locale.  I envy him just a bit.  Maybe because I’m older and enjoy warmer temps.  Or the delightful thought of a new beginning with fresh vistas, experiences and new relationships.

Friendships are forged often in the  nooks and crannies of life.  The spaces.  Not necessarily in the big and grandiose events.  But those five or ten minute conversations at work and at play, spread out over years.  They form bonds that last a lifetime.

Incidentals are not so incidental.  And little things mean a lot.

Someone has said that friendship is a sheltering tree.  Life brings with it lots of stormy weather and it is friendship, through family and comaraderie, that makes life rich.  Meaningful.  Bearable.

The above photo was taken aboard a dinner cruise that my friend, some colleagues and I took this past Summer here in the stunningly beautiful Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River.  There we laughed, ate and shared our hearts and dreams.

I will miss you Mike, my brother and friend.   You have no idea.  May the road rise up to meet you and the wind be always at your back.  The best is yet to come!