For many of us, we know we hold that coveted, “best friend forever” role for at least one of our besties. You’re not just a good friend, or even a great friend, but you are thee BEST friend. As the BFF we are often comedians when our friends need their frowns turned upside down, protectors of secrets, personal stylists and/or sharer of clothes, shoulders for tears to fall on, and wisdom holders to give advice at any moment. These are all the amazing roles we pride ourselves on and happily play as the BFF. For now though, I want to bring your attention to the role of supportive friend. Having been, and continue to be, an amazing BFF to my fam of friends, I also realize it’s really important to be a supportive friend, and that goes way beyond the BFF. Now you may be asking, “How is a supportive friend any different than the best friend? I mean, doesn’t the BFF support their friends in every way??” Well, of course we show our support, but one major thing we sometimes forget as the BFF, which the “supportive friend” has down pact, is to listen.
Sometimes as the BFF, we know our friends so well that we immediately put on the “advice giver” and/or “counselor” hat. We suddenly know all of the decisions our friend should make, and of course they should listen to us, because hellooo, we are the BFF for a reason, right? Well actually, a lot of times all of our friends, and the people around us for that matter, really just need someone to listen to them and NOT tell them “what’s best” for them. This is especially true for folks who are in an unhealthy or abusive dating relationship. I learned this lesson first hand.
One day I saw a girl I knew, an acquaintance, you know da kine, someone I saw around and said “hi” to at parties and stuff, but never had a real conversation with, sitting by herself and crying. When I asked her if she was ok, she started to tell me about her relationship and this fight she had with her boyfriend. I remember thinking it didn’t sound like a healthy relationship at all because it sounded like her boyfriend put her down… A LOT! I also realized I didn’t know her that well, and I didn’t know the person she was dating. As I was sitting there listening to her, I really didn’t know what to say. I mean if I had known her better, or maybe if I knew her boyfriend, than maybe I could give her some specific advice, but all I could really do at that moment was listen. I remember telling her I was sorry they were fighting and that her boyfriend didn’t sound like he was being very nice during the fights they were having. I also said that even though I didn’t know her well, I did know she didn’t deserve to be treated that way because no one should ever be put down. She said thanks, and had stopped crying at that point. I asked her if she wanted a hug, and she said yes, so we hugged, and then she went on her way, and I left to meet up with my BFF.
This acquaintance and I went back to the way things were before that talk, saying the occasional “hey” this time maybe adding a longer smile, or “hope you’re good.” It wasn’t until right before she moved away that summer, when we were both at a BBQ together, that she came up to me and thanked me for listening to her that day. She remembered our conversation and knew if it was someone else in her position, they wouldn’t have deserved to be put down like she had been by her boyfriend. It was still difficult for her to know that was true for herself. It still took time, it was still hard, and she did end up getting support from friends, but she did ultimately leave that unhealthy relationship. She said listening to her without any judgement made her feel like she was heard again, something she hadn’t been feeling with this person she was dating. This time she asked if she could give me a hug, and I said yes, and then we went on our separate ways.
After talking with her, it really opened my eyes. You see, it made ME realize that the year before I had pushed my own BFF away by not listening to her. My BFF was seeing this girl that would lie to her all the time, and whenever her girlfriend got questioned or caught in a lie, this girlfriend would shower my BFF with lots of affection and tell her how much she loved her and that it was all a misunderstanding. Me telling my BFF, “you could do so much better,” or “they’re such a jerk,” wasn’t actually helping anyone, especially my BFF. I realized over the years, sometimes my BFF advice and counseling wasn’t what my friends actually needed. I realized after that conversation with that acquaintance that I really wasn’t being a supportive friend to my BFF, and my “advice” was actually pushing her away.
Though my friend hadn’t been in that abusive relationship for over a year now, it wasn’t until that conversation with my acquaintance that I realized I may have been a great BFF, but I needed to be an equally awesome supportive friend. I mean, how could I be such a great and supportive friend to this girl I barely knew, but I couldn’t do the same for my own BFF? I remember going to my BFF’s after that BBQ and apologizing for not being a better listener when she was in that abusive relationship. I remember promising her I would support her and hear her out, and dial it down on all the “advice” and “counseling” and simply listen to her more. My BFF cried and I cried and then we hugged it out, and she told me she never knew how to tell me it hurt her feelings when I wouldn’t just listen to her.
I end this story with a holiday wish for all the folks who may be struggling this season. The holidays can be a tough time, especially if you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, or maybe don’t have your family and friends around as much. I wish for you the support of a friend, an ear to listen and hear you, a person that gives you the space to speak your truth. Here’s to a holiday full of finding our own voice again, and a big MAHALO to all those supportive friends out there for hearing us!!