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Creating Healthy Friendships

posted May 1, 2014, 5:52 PM by Heather Harrison   [ updated May 4, 2014, 9:18 PM ]

Friendships.  We know how important they are to us.  Friends have been described as our “chosen family”, they can give us community we may or may not have had in our family of origin.  Some friendships provide us a space where we can be who we really are and still be accepted.  They can be a place where we find camaraderie, adventure, a listening ear etc.  Other friendships may be fraught with a mixed bag of emotions and tensions. 

I believe being a part of a community is an essential piece to our emotional well being so I decided to take a look at my current relationships.  I asked myself the question, “What do I believe are the essential qualities of a healthy, life-giving friendship.? Following are the characteristics I choose.  I believe both parties need to bring these to a relationship to build and maintain solid friendships:

Authenticity:  The ability and willingness to be your “masks off” real selves in the relationship.  The need to compare or complete is absent from the relationship. The need to put on any of your favorite masks; “I’m successful, I’m busy, I’m okay, I don’t care, I’m a good girl, I’m my job, I’m my kids success etc.” is not present.

Radical Acceptance: Fully and unconditionally accepting the other person for who they are.  Acceptance is the same as approval. And it is deep inner knowing you are completely loved because you are you.

Reciprocal Nature:  Equality in the give and take within the relationship is present.  While there may be seasons of your friendship where you give more than you receive, overall there is a balance within the relationship that allows for both people to be fully heard and deeply understood.

Available: Having and making the time, space and energy for the relationship. Both people place enough importance on the relationship that it is a priority in their lives.

Emotionally Healthy Self:  Each person is, or is working toward becoming emotionally healthy. They are able to:

·         ask for what they need/want clearly, directly, honestly

·         take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings

·         state their own beliefs and values without becoming adversarial

·         respect others without having to change them

·         give others room to make mistakes and not be perfect

·         appreciate people for who they are, not for what they give back

·         accurately assess their own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and freely discuss them with others

·         be deeply in tune with their own emotional world and enter into the feelings, needs, and concerns of others without losing themselves

·         resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others

(Adapted from:  Scazzero, Peter, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)

 

An Assignment

I invite you to make a list of the people you consider to be your friends.  Using the qualities described above, ask yourself on a scale of 1-10, with “10” being high, how each of these show up in your friendship.  If you are willing, I encourage you to ask your friends to also rate your friendships.

Then ask yourself:

1.      What similarities/differences do you see in your responses with your friend’s responses?

2.      What strengths are you bringing to your friendships (authenticity, reciprocity, availability, an emotionally healthy self)?

3.      Which of these areas would you like to improve?

Using the list of characteristics of an emotionally healthy individual ask:

1.      Which of these qualities do I currently possess?

2.      In what areas would I like to grow my emotional health?


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