We aren't always the friends that we should be. Sometimes, we forget to lend the needed ears or offer the proper shoulders. We might speak when we should listen or ask for more than we can give. It's these moments—when we let our friends and ourselves down—that we look back on and cringe over. Only during reflection do we discover room to grow. The question is, how?
When thinking about the times we've been a bad friend, it's easy to paint ourselves as awful. Self-deprecation can feel easier than self-improvement—and less daunting. But it's important to shy away from self-annihilation, instead grabbing the opportunity to change by the horns.
Losing friends can be a great opportunity for growth. While sad, losing a friend offers space to reflect on what you've done to cause a strain in your relationship. Embrace your negative feelings. Accept responsibility. Acknowledge your faults and move your life in a positive and new direction. This work will make you a better person and friend.
I was recently let go by two close friends, and it led to a difficult six months. That time was full of second-guessing, anger, and sadness. And then I had a realization. Accepting that I was an active participant in our split rather than a victim allowed me to see how I let my friends down, and myself in turn.
Here are four takeaways from my self-reflection. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes, and reflect on areas for growth in your relationships, too.
Are you hearing what your friends have to say, or just the parts that work for you? Listening is an essential life skill, and it's important to do it well in all of your relationships. Check in. Ask questions. Don't just let others know how you're doing, make sure you're listening to them. Read their nonverbal communication cues, too. A good friend listens to what others have to say, reflects on the information, and then uses it to move relationships forward. Practice active listening with your friends, your family, and your partner. Listen to their words, and watch how your relationships change for the better.
It's great to lean on friends when you need them, but you shouldn't need them every day. While a good friend will always be there for you, you don't necessarily need to present them with every work, money, and relationship problem. If a crisis is self-induced, it’s probably best for everyone involved if you work it out yourself. Be there for your friends as often as they are there for you. And believe in your own capability to solve problems. You may be amazed by your inner strength.
Friendship is a two-way-street. With every relationship, there are two sets of opinions, feelings, and priorities. Don't allow someone you care about to feel unseen or unheard. Ensure you're tending to their needs and wants alongside your own. Be the friend that you'd want to have.
Friends aren't always forever. They choose to stick around because you're good for them. If the relationship wasn't positive for everyone, why would anyone stay in it? Friendships are like any other relationship and need to be treated similarly. Mutual respect, admiration, time, and commitment are all needed to maintain a lasting friendship.
Have you lost a friendship? Share how you’ve navigated these types of “breakups” in the comments below!
James Francis Kelley is a writer and stylist based in Los Angeles. While he has many interests, he’s most passionate about creating an eco-conscience culture and preparing for a globalized future. If he’s not working, he can be found on Duolingo, biking to electronica music, or browsing Mr. Porter. Find his work on his website, and his musings on Instagram.