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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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?