A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. – William Shakespeare

“Momma, you are my best friend.” My daughter sprinkles these words as she entered the room last week. She loves saying this phrase, but I know for certain that she is not clear about the gravity of this statement. Her announcement pushed me to consider various friendships and how my definition of a good friend has evolved over time.

For many years, I believed in the “best” friend concept. The best friend phenomena starts early with the broken heart necklaces that you see hanging in the aisle of Claire’s Boutique. Little girls run home, saying so and so is my first best friend and this girl is my second best friend.  As easy it is to wear these heart necklaces, they also can manage to unfasten with just as much ease. My daughter will sometimes say, “I had a mini-fight with ______. She is not my best friend anymore.” I caution her to take a step back and ask what her happened, but her mind moves on to the next something. Often, though, kids demonstrate their propensity to move on. The very next day, I learn, my daughter said they talked, and they are best friends again.

Of course, as adults, the word friendship becomes more complicated. An innocent argument can lead to silence for years. Bad feelings can cause a permanent break.

 I’ve changed my stance on the concept of a “best” friend. Labeling a particular person a “best” friend, almost ensures a failure. It is a difficult expectation to meet in my opinion because friendship can often be tenuous, especially when conflicts or disappointments arise. By adding the extra pressure of “best,” you almost guarantee that at a certain point of time you will not measure up. What defines a good friendship?

1) You can be yourself. You can reveal your fears, insecurities, and concerns without judgment. You don’t have to hide. Those friendships are the best because there is a freedom in vulnerability.

2) Conflict does not necessarily signify the end of the friendship. You can argue, discuss, and then have the ability to move forward. These are the friendships that allow you to evolve and grow. I love my friends who aren’t afraid to disagree with me. Those are the relationships in which I’ve experienced the most growth.

3) I know this a cliché, but it is an important truth. You share the good times as well as the bad times. When crisis hits, you need friends. Some people are comfortable in showing up, others might use your sorrow as a way to end the friendship. It took me a long time to learn that this wasn’t personal, just that these people weren’t equipped to handle my battle.

4) Laughter is the hallmark of a good friendship. Humor and those belly laughs make everything better.

5) You have to accept some friends are there for that particular time period in your life. Some may be permanent fixtures in your life, but others may move in and out. It is just the natural evolution of the friendship. Not every friend will always stay in your life. Nor do you have to be friends with everyone you intersect with.

6) A good friend uplifts. If you feel worse after intersecting with someone, they are people who should remain on the periphery.

6) Some friendships only revolve around small talk. Your personal tribe cannot include everyone. There are only a few native speakers that truly understand who you are. It may take a lifetime to find out who they are, but when you do discover them, you will know it.

How do you define a good friendship?

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