3 Ways to be a Remarkable Friend

I want to be a better friend. It’s something I’m working on in the new year. Thankfully, I have some amazing people in my life who model how to be a true friend every day.

We can also learn a lot from people about what not to do. In this case, a story about Miss Perfect and her love of laundry. (No, really.)

Oftentimes, the problems in our friends’ lives don’t overtly stand out. Instead, there are symtoms. Smaller issues that indicate a bigger problem below the surface.

Last year I hosted a group of women from church for a luncheon. I hadn’t seen Mother Perfect in months and she asked how I was doing. I wanted to tell her about the depression, sleepless nights, and chronic pain. But all I could muster was:

“Honestly, I’m low on sleep and struggling to keep up with the house. Specifically, the laundry is killing me. I’m folding at midnight at least three days a week. It’s overwhelming.”

I try not to complain or rant to my friends. I’m generally a positive, grateful person. But that day I needed to vent to someone who would understand. My laundry was multiplying faster than a jackrabbit on a date and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Astonished, she looked at me with a furled brow and said:

“Oh, not me. I love doing the laundry! I count it as great joy to have a family to do the laundry for!”

(Is she freaking kidding me right now?)

Mother Perfect continued:

“I use the folding time as an opportunity to pray for each person in my family. I pray for my son while matching his socks, and my husband while folding his boxers. It makes the laundry a pleasant task!”

She went on to tell me how she had everything color coded and put away by Thursday every week so she could enjoy her weekend.

While the idea of praying for your spouse as you fold their underwear is a good one, it’s not what I needed to hear in that moment. I was struggling. My insurmountable laundry wasn’t the problem; it was the symptom.

The symptom of a ragged, run-down woman dealing with deeper life issues. And I needed to talk about the laundry. I needed to know I wasn’t alone. I wanted to hear the laundry was sucking the life out of someone else, too. Not be made to feel I was failing miserably compared to the Laundry Lover. I am very grateful for my family. I just needed a moment to lament my inability to find matching socks in the 4th load of the night.

My best friend would have said in that moment:

“Laundry is evil. It’s killing me, too.”

And I would’ve felt better. Just like that.

Here are 3 things great friends do:

  1. Empathize. They put themselves in your shoes. Get down in the trenches. And it makes you feel less alone in the midst of a trial.
  2. Know when to offer solutions vs. when to simply be there. Sometimes you need advice, but a great friend recognizes the times you just need to hear, “I’m so sorry. That stinks.”
  3. Celebrate your success. Great friends don’t get jealous. They are genuinely happy for you when you succeed, and provide encouragement along the way.

What about you? Are you working on becoming a better friend this year? What would you add to this list?

 
 
  • Staci Troilo

    There’s a reason we categorize the people in our lives into “friends” and “acquaintances.” A friend knows you, an acquaintance knows who you are. Miss Pray-Over-Panties is clearly an acquaintance; she doesn’t know you. She doesn’t know what you like, what you want, what you need. Don’t be upset at your reaction. You’re only human; you had a bad day. (You should see my hamper right now. You’d feel like Martha Stewart!) Instead, realize that your acquaintance didn’t know how to help you and look for a friend to confide in the next time.

    • So true. An important distinction. Great to meet you, Staci!

  • Good point Staci. Tracy, I love your take on reminding us all to be better friends. I have heard that laundry argument (don’t hate me here) and try to think that way too. Only possible because my kids are almost grown and do their own laundry 🙂 You are spot on though, a friend doesn’t use the moment a woman is reaching out in a bit of desperation to praise the task that is your breaking point. I will try and remember your tips and be especially sensitive I hope in responding to others as I long to be responded to

    • Exactly, Christa…you get it! I have actually started doing this (on occasion). It was a nice idea. The timing is what was terrible. When someone is struggling, with something as simple as the laundry, it’s not the time to tell them how easy and joyful it is for you. Nobody will relate or listen to you when you aren’t willing to empathize with their situation.

  • Heidi

    Honestly, I laughed out loud at the praying over laundry comment. Not because it is a bad practice, but when did parenting and laundry become an event in the Spiritual Olympics? There’s a reason why Jesus said to pray in the closet where no one can see/hear you. Life is not a competition.

    I could very well be wrong on that. And if I am, it is definitely a team sport. We only win when we play together. I think this is why we are instructed to bear one another’s burdens. For me, being a better friend is doing just that. Sharing the load my friend is carrying and making sure they KNOW it isn’t a burden for me to share it. True friendship is a gift and sharing the joys and struggles along life’s path are part of the package that makes it priceless.

    • I want no part in the Spiritual Olympics. Love it! One of the many things that makes you an incredible friend is your ability and willingness to carry the load with your friends.

  • renee baude

    these are also good tips for dealing with kids!

  • There are times when we need truth spoken to us-then there are times we need someone to run into our laundry room and start folding! This post clearly offers us this truth. I think experiences such as this prepares us to NOT accidentially repeat the action to someone else who is in greater need than we were in.

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