“A friend is someone who can see the truth and pain in you even when you are fooling everyone else.”
“Everyone hears what you say. Friends listen to what you have to say. Best friends listen to what you don’t say.”
“Friendship is a bridge built on caring and strengthened by the years.”
“Friendship isn’t a big thing. It’s a million little things.”
“A best friend is someone who knows all about you and loves you anyway.”
“When you are up in life, your friends get to know who you are, but when you are down in life, you get to know who your friends are.”
I’m not saying any of these thing are bad or untrue. But I think they leave out a very crucial element of true friendship. While it may be true that your “real” friends stick by you, even through the hard times, like and accept you no matter what, and last a long time, I think the true test of friendship comes when you resolve conflict.
People are different. Granted, your friends are probably more like you than not, but the closer you get to someone and the more time you spend with them, the more likely you are to experience differences of opinions or to hurt one another’s feelings. The worse the conflict, the harder it is to resolve.
The true test of the depth of a friendship, I think, is how willing you are to resolve it, and how close you are after. A little more than a year ago, a friend and I had a conflict. I believe I wrote a post about it at the time (although I can’t find it now) talking about how I said some hurtful things and how it spiraled down from there. I talked to this friend, apologized, and tried to resolve the issue and restore our friendship. She wasn’t willing to. She refused to see that times in the past when I had really tried to reach out and be there for her, through her hard times, were truly an effort. Her response was, “That’s your idea of reaching out?” She mentioned instances where she had tried to reach out to me and I hadn’t responded in the way she wanted, and went on to say we apparently had never been friends in the first place.
I still feel remorse for having said the things I said, but I have realized she is probably right. We never were really close. I do not have the time and unlimited resources she believes are necessary to invest in a “real” relationship, and she doesn’t have the willingness to forgive and grow closer through a conflict. We are not true friends.
On the other hand, my very best friend and I have had multiple conflicts. Usually not large, but we’ve both said and done things that have been hurtful or misconstrued or that we have disagreed upon. And yet we always manage to work through it, because we mean enough to each other that we are willing to go through the discomfort of a conflict in order to grow closer. She is my one confidant, and the one person other than my husband who I trust with my secrets.
I can lay out in great detail the people in my life with whom I have a close enough relationship that we have worked through truly traumatic conflicts. In many cases, the conflict started because of something I said, however justified, that was cruel or at the very least presented in a way that was not uplifting. I don’t intend to be unkind, and I don’t set out to say things that are cruel, but I have a tendency to speak before thinking and I often say what I mean, even though the thoughts I think about a person aren’t particularly flattering. I like to think I’m growing in this area, but I still have plenty of work to do. Fortunately, my True Friends are willing to work with me to solve conflicts and restore relationships. I’ve mentioned my Roommates before, and these women are some of the closest friends I have. I’ve gone through a conflict/resolution/growing closer cycle with most of them. And, in turn, there have been people I’m very close to who have hurt me very badly, but when we work through it, we are closer and our friendship is stronger than it was before.
This topic came to mind because I recently experienced an incident with a new friend in which something I said caused this person to feel hurt and as though they couldn’t trust me. I really like this person and didn’t want to lose this new friendship. My new friend very graciously allowed me to explain what I meant and why I did and said things the way I did, and we worked through it and I believe came to a new level in our friendship. This is as it should be. And now I know that this person really is a True Friend, because we can resolve conflict and grow closer through it.