What My 20s Taught Me: How to Be Friends

February 24, 2012

Me and Emily at MYRTLE BEACH!!! ('cause that's how you have to say it.)

One of my best friends is named Emily.  We met when we were 19 and 18, respectively.  She has amazing red hair and a cute little girl named Larkin who’s just two weeks older than Adlai.

I love Emily.

And I have probably apologized to Emily more times than I’ve apologized to anyone else I know (except for my family, but that’s different).  One time, I apologized to Emily twice, in two consecutive Summers, for the same thing, because I couldn’t remember if I’d actually apologized the first time or just thought about apologizing so much it seemed real.  So I locked her in a laundry room in our friend Sarah’s beach house, poured my heart out, and begged for her forgiveness.  She listened graciously (because she’s very gracious), smiled sweetly and then said, “Thank you, but you apologized a year ago, and I already forgave you.”

Why have I apologized to Emily at least 10 times?  Is it because I’ve hurt Emily more times than I’ve hurt anyone else?

I don’t think so.

I think, what it is, is that Emily is good at friendship.  Emily knows that friendship is not built on a shared love of vintage home furnishings (although this doesn’t hurt), but on honesty.  When I hurt Emily’s feelings, she tells me.  If she feels like we’re not where we should be in our friendship, she tells me.  If she thinks I’m acting weird, she tells me.

This (hopefully) doesn’t mean I’m always hurting Emily, but it means that she takes our friendship seriously, and she wants it to be the best it can be.

One time, Emily did something that hurt me, and I didn’t tell her.  Instead, I kept it locked up inside my heart, and slowly grew more and more detached from her over several months (this is what happens when you’re not honest).  Finally, Emily, because she’s good at friendship, asked me what was going on.  So then I took a page out of her book and I told her.  And then I apologized to her for not telling her a long time ago.

And Emily, because she’s good at friendship, forgave me.

Most of the world will tell you that a real friend won’t hurt you, and if she does, you should walk away.  But I’d like to argue that a real friend is not a real friend until she has hurt you, and you’ve told her, and you guys have talked it out.  That’s how we get to know each other – to really know each other.  That’s how we be friends.

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