Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

What it Means to be a Friend

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Last week I told you that you can’t change the world.

It doesn’t matter how right you are. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter how eloquent or beautiful you are. You can’t change people.

But you can choose to be somebody’s friend.

The kind of friendship that matters is about selfless, sacrificial love. And I believe that is the only thing it is about. Love.

Today we talk about you being that type of friend.

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photo by Mani Babbar

1. Friendship means showing up.

We don’t make act like friends from the comfort of our living rooms or the privacy of our beds. We act like a friend when we go where our friends our. Friendship needs contact. Friendship needs seeing people and problems and needs first hand. Even when it is inconvenient. Especially when it could be dangerous and uncomfortable.

2. Friendship means radical acceptance.

No conditions. No termination clauses. Only open arms. As long as something stands between you and another your friendship is limited. There will always be a wall keeping distance between you. Radical acceptance means letting go of all of your expectations of another. True friends are friends no matter how you feel about how they choose to live or what they choose to do.

3. Friendship means participating in their life.

To be a friend you have to know a person. It means listening. It means studying. It means doing the hard work of knowing. You can’t know someone by knowing their address or their phone number or by seeing their picture on the internet. The only way to be a friend is to learn who they really are.

4. Friendship means giving sacrificially.

We give gifts at birthdays and Christmas, but rarely is it a sacrifice. Sacrifice by definition means that it hurts. You feel it. To give sacrificially you will have to let go of something. You give without expecting anything in return. Maybe something you own. Maybe your own comfort. Maybe your pride. Maybe your life.

5. Friendship means letting someone take advantage of you.

I hate being taken advantage of. But loving and being a friend requires making yourself vulnerable. When you radically accept people and give to them sacrificially, at some point they will hurt you. They will disappoint you. It is the nature of people. It is the way of the world. The question isn’t whether or not it will happen, but whether or not you will still love that person when it does happen.

6. Friendship means taking on problems that are not yours.

Our culture is littered with phrases like, “Not my problem,” or “That isn’t in my job description.” Being a friend means making someone else’s problems ours. It means doing the work for the good of someone else, especially when we don’t have to.

7. Friendship means committing to the long run.

Just because you show up and give and do the hard things doesn’t mean someone will return the friendship. All you can do is be this type of friend and then wait. It takes time and effort for a friendship to mature. It won’t happen over night. Their is no love at first sight. Their is only love after giving and giving over a long period of time.

Loving and being a friend isn’t about what you should or shouldn’t do. It is an opportunity. An chance to do more. A moment to make a difference.

Being a friend is hard. It demands letting go of the self and saying yes to someone else. It isn’t fun. Nobody will give you a medal for doing it.

But it is a choice any of us can make.

Have you known this type of friendship? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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15 Replies

  1. lhoenigsberg

    Hi Jeremy! My best friend of 14 years here in Helena, Montana and I have that kind of friendship. The coolest thing about our friendship is the way it started. Fourteen years ago, not too long after we met, we sat down together over lattes and talked about what friendship meant and decided to commit to that kind of friendship with each other. It was a very deliberate act that we knew required sacrifice, and we have made it happen. We both know we could call each other in the middle of the night if we needed to, and would be there for each other in a heartbeat.

  2. Bill Wickens

    Great definition. Some day hope to experience it.

  3. That’s pretty cool that you set out with that in mind. Of course you then had to live up to it, but I guess if you both know what you want, even if you messed up, you could always go back to the initial plan. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. I agree, receiving this type of friendship from someone would be great. But you can’t make anybody do this for you. I think we start with ourselves and live this way. Someone may offer the friendship to you, or they may not. But that’s out of your hands.

  5. Tkaybake

    As I read this, it struck me this is also a great description of parenting. DId anyone else feel that as well?

  6. lhoenigsberg

    Yes, we’ve messed up plenty of times…LOL

  7. I think it is a great way to choose to parent.

  8. Self-sacrifice, and putting others first. Less about me and more about others. I’ve known this type of friendship through marriage to my wonderful wife.

  9. I love it when that happens. Good for both of you.

  10. Great post Jeremy! And great presentation this past Sunday. I’ve experienced friendship in all of these ways at one time or another. Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to let another take advantage of me repeatedly. Frankly it suck. But the more I Iearn about grace, the more I realize that my efforts to protect myself won’t change my friend. But I believe graciously accepting him where he is and enduring all things will be transformative. Plus, there are likely a thousand ways I hurt my friends that I don’t realize. But they embrace me still.

    I’m looking forward to showing up this Friday morning to hang out as well. It’s been a little too long since we’ve showed up together!

  11. Thanks for sharing this story. It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another to experience it.

  12. I love this, Jeremy. I have a few friendship where I’m giving sacrificially, being taken advantage of, and taking on problems that aren’t mine… I’m glad to know this can actually be normal.

  13. It’s not normal, but it’s probably better.

  14. Thanks for this post Jeremy! I have been blessed with rich, rich friendships … and have found that because I’ve been poured into so much, I can then invest in others from the overflow. There is one gal right now I’m pouring into and I know that I’m going to have to be in it for the long haul — it’s not going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it!

  15. I’m excited that she gets you for a friend.

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