Being a friend is a serious, but welcome and pleasant, responsibility. And it’s one that shouldn’t rely on the burdens of expense and obligation. True, friends often exchange gifts and go to expense for each other as a matter of course. But this isn’t, or shouldn’t be, perceived as a requirement.
True friendship is a combination of support, encouragement, pleasure and relaxation. Friendship is a consciously created environment within which two or more people can help each other, enjoy each other’s company and free themselves from the cares and pains of the outside world. It is a source of accountability without judgment, love without presumption and peace without neglect.
Being a good friend isn’t always easy. But it is always rewarding, and often returns far more than any effort you put into it. You don’t have to have money or power to be a friend. In fact, here are several ways you can be a friend for free, and without any strings attached.
Listen. A good friend is always willing to listen, without forcing their own narrative or judgment on what’s being said. Your opinion may be asked, but it may not. Take your cues on giving advice from your friend’s invitations, rather than from your own urges.
Be supportive. One of the best aspects of friendship is the degree of support it creates. It allows us to pursue things we might be afraid to take on alone, and it gives us a safe place to land if we fall. You don’t have to agree with everything your friend does in order to provide support – the key is to respect and support the person, if not their choices (although you should be upfront and clear if they’re asking for support for something you simply cannot go along with, for whatever reason).
Be a light. When times are bad, a friend knows how to brighten things up (and when to step back and let grief or sadness take its path). A friend knows how to bring out the best in their companions and in themselves, and is someone to look up to and who looks up to (and after) us.
Do the hard stuff. Being a friend means doing things like going out at 3am to take your friend to the doctor or helping them deal with the paperwork after a loved one dies. These times aren’t fun, but they form some of the strongest and most important bonds of friendship.
Hang out. It seems obvious to many of us, but some people feel that friendship always involves doing something (and usually, this means spending money). In reality, sometimes the best way to spend the day is simply hanging out with your friends doing not much of anything. No pressure, no time limits, no stress – just a bunch of like-minded folks enjoying each other’s company.
Commit random acts of fun. Send your friend a crazy postcard with a funny message. Call and leave a joke on their answering machine. Take a favorite photo of theirs and turn it into wallpaper for their computer. Random acts of fun are a sure way to inject levity into any friendship. Just be sure that what you’re doing really is fun for everyone – for example, some people find practical jokes the height of humor, while others hate them.
Thanks to Widow’s Quest for including this post in the Carnival of Positive Thinking, to Vanilla Joy for publishing this article in the Carnival of Family Life, and to Tip Diva for featuring this post in the Carnival of Tips.