The Tightrope and Net of Friendship

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately and all the different kinds of friends and levels of friendship it takes to get by in this world.  

My two closest friends could not be more different from each other. One I’ve known since our freshman year in high school. She is my sanity check and the person I go to when I need to think something through. She is the perfect combination of facts and figures, heart and soul. We write verbose emails even though we live in the same town. We share a dark and quirky sense of humor, have a lot of history under our belts and I trust her judgment wholeheartedly.

My other best friend is like my sister. Just walking into the room and seeing her smile makes me feel at ease and gives me a sense of balance. Even if all we’re doing is looking at Pinterest or planning a kid’s birthday party, I know she is my family and tribe. We’ve had plenty of deep conversations but we don’t need them to know what we mean to each other. She’s the person who would help me bury the body, no questions asked.

I have old friends that I don’t see very often and new friendships that are just budding. I’ve made amazing friends through blogging. Work friends, bus stop friends, Facebook friends, they are all vital to my sense of belonging and my need to be a part of a community.

But through it all, these are the types of friends who have shaped me the most.

Friend A:

This is the friend that you go to when you need to vent. She sits quietly, nodding her head at all of your crazy conclusions because she knows you just need to pour your heart out. You don’t want advice or feedback, not yet. You need to get it all out and you know you don’t have to sanitize your story for her. You trust her to not judge or criticize because she trusts you to ultimately do what’s right, make healthy decisions and not bury your head in the sand. Sometimes, venting is all you need to get back on your path. And sometimes, this talk leads to Friend B.

Friend B:

This is the friend you go to when you need a serious sanity check, when your thoughts are so muddled and confused that you don’t know which end is up. Maybe you’re heartbroken or righteously pissed off. Circumstances and choices have either brought you down or kept you down and you need help. This friend knows that you need a brainstorming session, good advice and honest feedback. This friend is firmly on your side and will not leave your side but depending on how open you are to hearing painful feedback, you may need Friend C.

Friend C:

This friend sees you struggling, even when you think you’re doing a great job at hiding your pain. She worries for you and sees a big picture that you are blind to. This friend is in a tough predicament. She’s been letting you vent but sees that it’s just leading you in circles. Even though you haven’t asked for feedback or advice, she decides to take a big risk and confront you on what she sees. She chances facing your anger, being cut off by you, and risks you pushing her away because she’s that concerned for your health and/or safety.

No one does friendship perfectly. While Friend A is listening to you vent, she may be judging you in her head. Friend B is probably really attached to the outcome of your story and may have a hard time if you don’t take her advice. Friend C will invariably push too hard in her quest to help you.

New friendships are hard because trust isn’t built overnight and it’s easy to misjudge a person’s comfort zone.

Old friendships have their own challenges because we may not always give our friend the room they need to grow.

I was recently Friend C and it didn’t go the way I’d hoped. What was intended as a gentle suggestion that acknowledging her personal issues would help her deal with other issues came off as judgment and criticism. That’s why being Friend C is so risky. We may think that a friend is ready to confront their demons when they’re not even ready to admit they have any. I’ve been in that position so I get it but I’m grateful for the friends who have pushed through my resistance and planted a seed of knowledge that I could choose to nurture and grow.

So, when my efforts to be a good Friend C failed, I went to Friend B for advice. And I will be venting to Friend A about it all soon. Sometimes friendship is a tightrope and sometimes it’s a net.

13 Comments on “The Tightrope and Net of Friendship

  1. I love the breakdown you lay out, Karen. I have sucked at friendships, to be honest. Too much work. I envied those who had friends like the ones you described. But as my wife once told me, it takes work, and that is work I wasn’t willing to do. These days, I have forged a few friendships with men who I have met through social media, which now runs to long phone calls or emails. We lean on one another, and are open and don’t hold back. We are no bullshit artists, and we know the damage that comes from shielding our emotions. So we sit and listen and we don’t judge. I have had guys call me out on my BS and I appreciate it. Perhaps it’s a bit different with guys, I don’t know. But I am grateful for these men in my lives. I never had this in my life, and it’s taken me 46 years to get to this point!
    Anyway, thank you for this.

    Blessings
    Paul

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    • It’s wonderful to have those relationships! I hate talking on the phone and I’m often awkward socially so I love email/text friendships. It is a rare gift to have people we trust to call us out when we need it! I find that as I get older purely casual friendships are hard to maintain. I don’t like small talk and I need to see the “real” person underneath. It’s not that I need to be deep all the time but I need to know that I can be. Thanks Paul!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Karen, this is such a wonderful description of friendship. We can all be such complicated creatures & benefit from any one of these friends (A,B,or C) at various points in our life. I think I recognize myself as a friend in all three.

    I too, have attempted to be a C to a dearly loved friend a number of years ago. Sadly, my unwanted suggestions also came off as judgment which was certainly never my intention. In more recent days, I have another friend who really needs a “C” friend but admittedly I am a little gun shy about being that person. Perhaps I shall muster up the courage in the coming days.

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    • I understand being gun shy. What’s that saying about the lesson appearing when the student is ready? Something like that. Sometimes, all we can do is let the friend know that we’re concerned and why, then hope it’s enough for them to take the next step. I don’t regret being Friend C. If anything, I wish I had pushed harder. Good luck with your friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So well said! We all do need a multitude of friends,don’t we?

    I feel really fortunate that my husband often steps in as a friend A and a friend B. And I finally learned to tell him when I’m venting, so he doesn’t jump into “I have to fix it” mode.

    I lost a friend a few years back when I was friend C. At the time, I was so excited that my friend was finally taking steps toward counseling. Steps to work on things in her life that kept ending up with her turning to the bottle, and quitting jobs. She talked about wanting to change and get counseling. So when she finally took steps to get a counselor, I sent her a note of congratulations and encouragement. The note was met with ballistic rage (I found out through her husband), and I realized very quickly that her issues were much more than only alcoholism. Unfortunately, at the time, my own life was beyond challenging, and I chose to let that friend go. It helped that she never called me either.

    Lately, with some really heavy things going on in my life, mystical things, I feel like I might be losing the few friends I have. I’m pretty sure I won’t. But its been really hard lately.

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    • There can be much ebb and flow in friendships when we’re not in the same place. I’ve lost friends when I’ve chosen a path different from theirs and it can be painful but necessary. Your husband sounds like mine! He’s learning too. 🙂

      We require different things in different seasons and I hope it works out with your friends and what you’re going through!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautifully written tribute to the three types of friendships I treasure in my own life, too.
    How long have I known you? 3 years?4? I could tell right away that you were someone I wanted in my corner and you always have been.
    The older I get, the more I cherish the strong, amazing women in my life.
    Don’t know what I would do without you. xoxox

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    • I feel the same way about you!! I’m definitely more appreciative of friendships now than I was when I was younger. So many seasons of life can make friendships harder, like when my kids were younger. I’m less needy now in terms of making space for those seasons. So glad to have you in my corner too! ❤ ❤ ❤

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  5. Gawd – friendships can be hard. But the ones that are forged in steel through laughter, tears, rage, frustration, happiness and genuine caring are worth all the effort in the world. As I’ve aged I’ve had a harder time making those connections but when I find one, I run with it. I’ve had a best friend since my Frosh year too, weird eh? Found her in German class wearing weird shoes…and I’d not trade all those memories, experiences, the good times and the hard times for anything else. They have shaped me, propped me up and given me a ‘comin’ to Jesus’ when it’s necessary. If you can argue with your friend but turn around and work through it – that’s love. When you have to hear the hard things but can still listen to what’s being said – that’s love. When you have to say the hard things and they listen, that’s love. Love is worth everything. Always.

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