“A true friend accepts you just as you are, and just as you aren’t.” (Unknown)
One of the hallmarks of a real friend is someone who can really see you in your complexity, your layers, your nuances, and your many facets. A true friend knows your most likely reaction to something, but is also open to experiencing a new and different reaction from you. They are ready and able to embrace you as you grow and change with life.
And more importantly, a friend accepts what you aren’t — meaning that they don’t push you to be a certain way, to value any particular things, or to have specific opinions. They are fully aware of who you are not, just as much as they are in tune with who you are.
A good friend has no agenda for how they want you to behave or be — they just accept you as you are, where you are, for who you are. And just as quickly, they understand and accept who you are not.
The flip side of this is that in order for you to be a good friend, it’s important for you to see and know who your friends are, and who they are not, while at the same time remaining open to the fact that they are changing and evolving and may not be the same tomorrow or next week. By allowing them the room to flex and move, while still acknowledging, respecting and knowing who and where they are right now, you embody the delicate equation of a loving, supportive friendship.
Here’s an example: Marjie and Suzanne are friends. Marjie is a very picky eater and takes a great deal of time to order her meal at a restaurant. Several of Marjie’s friends refuse to eat out with her because she is so detailed and specific that they feel badly for the server and are intolerant of sitting through all the questions and special requests. But Suzanne knows about Marjie’s habit and expects her to act that way. In fact, if Marjie didn’t act that way, Suzanne would be surprised.
Suzanne is able to accept the fact that Marjie is not someone who can simply order off the menu and eat the food “as is”…in other words she accepts what Marjie is not. Because Suzanne knows and gets this aspect of Marjie, she is fine with the detailed ordering behavior and finds it an amusing quirk that she loves about her friend.
At the same time, Suzanne would be fine if one day Marjie moved past her need to be so particular about what she eats. Because Suzanne has no expectations of her friend, she is able to accept her just as she is (and isn’t)…without any attachment to Marjie’s eccentricities.
Suzanne believes that Marjie is an amazing human being and she sees so many valuable qualities in her — in fact, Suzanne feels that her other friends are missing out on experiencing the delight of Marjie’s companionship and friendship. Still, Suzanne accepts that they are aware of their own limitations and needs, and she respects their decision to not eat out with Marjie.
I encourage you to take a look at your friendships — in which ones do you feel supported to be who you are AND who you are not? And then, bravely reflect on yourself and your capacity as a friend — are you accepting of your friends or do you have expectations about their behavior?
Our friendship connections will become much deeper and fulfilling when we are able to embrace another just as they are (and aren’t).