Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who is the better friend?

I had a friend post this on facebook as her status:
"Let's hear some opinions- Do you think a friend is someone who lets you be your self or is a friend someone who helps you become better than yourself?"

I wanted to put an answer, but the only thing I could think of was, "Who the hell are YOU (or ME) to decide what makes someone better?" That didn't seem like an answer that would create the feeling I wanted.

I have literally spent the last two days obsessing and mulling over the question, as well as other people's answers. I've had discussions online, on the phone, and over dinner all about this same thing. I laid awake last night unable to sleep, because I couldn't turn my brain off.

Round about five o'clock this morning, this is what I came up with:
"The friend who accepts me and loves me for who I am is the truest friend. It feels amazing when someone sees ME, knows ME, and loves me. That kind of friendship feels hopeful, healing, and inspiring. That kind of friendship inspires me to be the best me. They don't love me, SO that I will change anything. There is no expectation to change... And ironically, that provides the best environment to change and grow and learn, and become better.

When a friendship is based on, "I love you and I hope you'll change," that feels confusing, lonely, sad, "dried up", and withered away... The opposite of inspired. It eats away at me. Until I have no desire to be around that person, because it is painful and empty.

I also used to get confused and think that I should accept everyone just as they are, which meant accepting things that really hurt me. (Like a friendship I described above.) Now, I can say, "That hurts me, so I won't be around you when you're doing that." That isn't about changing them to be better, its about creating an environment I like being in. I can't know what is "better" for someone else. Only they can know that. And only I know what is "better" for me.

I really like the saying, "Accept me as I am or watch me as I walk away." And I feel like that goes both ways, "I will accept you as you are, or I will let you walk away." That feels like love (true friendship) to me."

I posted it to her status. I feel terrified. At first, I wasn't going to... I didn't find this answer for her, it was for me. But, she did ask for opinions, and just because my opinion was pretty much the opposite of everyone else that posted doesn't make my opinion wrong... 

It might open me up to nasty messages. It IS her wall, so she can hate it, delete it, tell me not to post there, and I think that's fair. I'm still scared. Speaking my truth is new for me, and scary. I'm not used to voicing my opinions when they are different from others... yet.


  1. I suggest not checking up on replies for a couple days. Don't let yourself be preoccupied with something you wrote on a person's facebook wall. It's just facebook. It wasn't a personal attack, it wasn't a radical idea, and she asked the question in the first place. I assume she wanted an answer, and yours is an excellent, well-thought-out answer. Anyway, if it's making you that nervous, and you go and see something nasty while you feel like that, it'll bother you more. Let yourself cool down so that you can approach and potential nastiness calmly and without being affected.

    That's what I do when I don't want to get upset by replies to a facebook comment. It's not as if people can expect you to check up on every post you make every day. They probably won't be bothered by someone who posts and never returns.

  2. YOU are a genius. And you sure have my number. I was obsessively checking for replies and messages, but you're right... If I got one, even a nice one, with this kind of emotion and anxiety, I'd be really bothered. (since I'm already really bothered.)

    Thanks for your thoughts!! You're a voice of sanity for me today. :)

  3. I completely agree that a true friend will accept you and love you no matter what. I also think that a true friend knows what you want and will help you get it. I certainly don't think a friend will nag you about your character flaws (as they see them) but I do think that they will help you be aware of things that will help you accomplish your dreams and goals.

    It seems like the big thing that you take issue with is someone imposing their belief system on you. I agree, that is not enjoyable. I think a friend who knows you well and understands your belief system and your true goals will help you get there. That person will also desire that you will correct them when their understanding of your goals is incorrect. That's how I see it, anyway.

  4. Jeff - yes, I don't like it when others push their beliefs on me. I get really cranky. :)
    I've also seen how I have not accepted others and pushed my beliefs on them. Dann is a really good example.

    I believed I knew what he needed better than he did. I tried to change him to be something he wasn't, and that hurt him. It sucked him dry. If I had known what I know now, I would have loved him enough to NOT marry him. I didn't understand what I was doing, but that doesn't mean the damage I did was any less.

    I also agree that a friend supports you in accomplishing your dreams. If you say you want to go to New York, but you're headed towards California, a friend will point that out. Which then lets me decide if I want to change directions, or change goals.

  5. I totally agree. I think the example of the road trip in one direction is a great one. A friend will let you know that New York is the other direction, but they leave the decision up to you. Perhaps your goals have changed and California really is where you want to go. It's not for your friends to decide whether California is right or wrong but to just let you know which direction New York is.

    I also agree with the Dann situation. I think in a lot of ways I don't really know Dann because he hid so much of who he was for you.

    When Robyn and I were dating, she would occasionally get embarrassed by the fact that I can be loud and obnoxious at times. We had a very frank discussion where I explained that I really enjoyed being with her but if she was embarrassed by who I am then it probably wouldn't work out. She then made her own decision that she wanted to continue to be together and that she wasn't going to try to change me. We still have little things that we get annoyed about each other, and sometimes we try to change each other without even realizing it but it's something we both work on allowing the other person to be who they are. I think that her unconditional love has given me an environment where I can root out things that I don't like about myself and change them through my own decisions in a safe environment.

  6. Your insight is fantastic and I agree with what you've shared and expressed. My view of true friendship is one where there is a mutual understanding made between the two parties. It can be a silent agreement, a voiced agreement, but those involved are open and willing to share and if something "tricky" comes to present, both will allow the other to express and be open to receiving what the other is offering.

    I'm learning about what true friendship is right now and what stands out to and for me the most, is that when one allows another to simply BE themselves and there are no conditions placed upon it, it is something golden.

  7. I am SO loving that you are using your voice. Thank you for speaking up, speaking out and sharing your light with this world.

  8. "Better" doesn't really mean better. It means "more like what I think is acceptable."

    They don't "love you and hope you'll change." They can't. "Love the sinner and hate the sin" just means "I love the person you would be if you magically turned into someone I could love." They create an imaginary you and love that person, and try to make you into her.

    It's the death of a thousand hugs.

  9. In my opinion, feathertail said it best. After all, how can you (or anyone else) become "better than yourself." I am what I am, and you are what you are.* Your potential lies within you, and it seems you may only be beginning to explore that potential. "Better than yourself" is just someone else's judgmental opinion, based on who-knows-what criteria (often, but not always, a very narrow version of religion). Your answer was true to your own heart--and those who can recognize your innate honesty WILL accept you for who you are!

    *In case you've haven't done so recently, check out the lyrics to "I am what I am" from the musical "La Cage aux Folles." Great truth may sometimes be found in relatively profane sources.

  10. PS: Without giving away more information than would be prudent, could you be so kind as to tell me WHERE in Utah those absolutely majestic and gorgeous mountains in the background of your home page photo "Horses and Mountains" can be found? Are they Wasatch? Uinta? LaSal? Although the resolution in the picture is very limited, the mountains are clearly spectacular. My own guess would be Wasatch from the east side, looking toward the west, but I'm almost certainly wrong, as I only spent a year or two in Utah back in the 1960's. Thank you, Boris.

  11. Sensory Overload (first, I love your name. I have often felt like much of my experiences came because I was overloaded - I felt too much to understand, and it made me feel like I was crazy. I'm learning to step back and only allow "in" what I can handle... Which has been an amazing process. :)

    Angie - :)

    Feathertail - I think you nailed what I have felt from some people (and from this particular friend, which is probably why it was bothering me so much) with this quote, "I love the person you would be if you magically turned into someone I could love."

    Boris - I LOVE that song! I'm pretty sure I listened to it at least ten times the day I wrote this blog entry...

    The mountains are Wasatch. I am on the top of the mountain in between American Fork Canyon and Alpine (Dry Creek Canyon) looking west. (You were right!) That day was probably one of the best rides ever! Long, I want to say 8-9 hours in the saddle. SO worth it. :)

  12. Dear Jen,

    Thank you so much, because for me those mountains are very special. When I was very young, growing up in Colorado, it was "Come, Come, Ye Saints" and other LDS hymns that underscored their importance. But when I was at BYU (on the West side of the Wasatch) in the 1960's, it was just looking at those gorgeous mountains that gave me the courage to ignore the bigotry being preached by then-Pres Ernie Wilkinson and so many of the LDS General Authorities, and to make the decision that "I'm OK," and if anyone is screwed up, it's probably the bigots. Mountains and horses and nature itself are wonderful things--they can make us feel at peace with ourselves and the world around us, which I believe is EXACTLY where we need to be. Don't you agree?

  13. Boris - yes, I completely agree. It was from a horse in the mountains that I realized, "I like ME. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm a perfect Jen."

    I looked at the horses and the trees and the rocks and I didn't want them to be any different than they are. Sometimes horses or rocks hurt people, so I do my best to protect myself... But I can't change them to be something that they aren't.

  14. I agree: to be comfortable with yourself is to be"a perfect Jen." I ran across an interesting book review in my favorite weekly magazine a few days ago. It relates to "the healing power of horses." Here's the URL just in case you are interested:

    A brief quote from the review:

    "Equine therapy is routinely used to help rehabilitate prisoners, assist wounded servicemen to readjust to civilian life and develop social and motor skills in children with autism."

    Maybe it is the horses who are really whispering to us, and not the other (anthropocentric) way around.

  15. Thanks for the recommendation. I have read several books on the healing power of horses.

    Horses don't have the ability to "think and plan for the future" like humans do. And they have an amazing ability to sense when a person isn't being congruent. Horses don't care if you're angry, sad, happy, jealous, whatever, as long as you are being honest about what you're feeling - they're fine.

    I can't explain all of the things horses have taught me. They were (and are) DEFINITELY whispering to me, and I'm so glad I slowed down enough to listen.

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