Anyone that goes through a personal crisis in their life will inevitably come out the other side speaking the same truth—I learned who my real friends are.
We’ve all heard it. There are those that come in your hour of need and those that flee. This discovery comes with a messy conglomeration of emotions. There is shock and disappointment over who you thought would be there, tinged with the bitterness of betrayal when you think of what you’ve invested in the relationship. And then there is amazement and heartfelt gratitude over who surprised you by showing up. These relationships are marked forever with a new depth, burned into your memory as, “they were there when…”
My husband who is a researcher and has spent decades as a psychologist, tells me that there is a common understanding in clinical research that there is a 3 months window that people will stick by you in difficult times.
Whether your spouse has a heart attack, your child has leukemia, you’re going through a nasty, soul sucking divorce, or you shattered your ankle and are wheelchair bound, people will only be interested and care for about 3 months and then begin to “peel away.” By 6 months, your crisis is old news, they have moved on altogether and don’t want to discuss it.
Sounds too harsh? Do you think you’d last longer?
To be fair, we could give a free pass to many because though we may be altered by our experience, why should they be? It’s not like they have to grow with us, right?
Only you can answer that, but I believe life is about reaching that deeper level. I seek meaningful and more authentic connections.
There’s the cliché that proclaims, “you really don’t know what you’re made of until you have to prove it.” I believe the same applies to friendship. The people that are willing to get down in the trenches with you are rare, but they are there.
It’s part of their character not to shy away from pain or discomfort. They aren’t easily jarred or scared. Salt of the earth and grounded firmly in reality, they walk to you instead of away.
Soldiers fall into this category. They sign up and vow to see it to the end, whatever the “end” may be. It’s not in their consciousness to abandon the mission when it gets tough. They take the promise to always have their “buddy’s back,” as seriously as their own life. No matter the danger or rigor, they stay.
Firefighters run into burning buildings as rational people run out. The entire premise of their livelihood and safety is to always look out for one another. There isn’t a single firefighter that would say, “I’ve got this, I’ll do it alone.”
No one wants to walk into the unknown alone. With every challenge, there must be courage, and mustering that strength seems a little easier with someone by your side.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, something happened. Like ghosts appearing out of the fog, the most unusual and wonderful people came into my life. I received an email from a fellow writer friend that to this day makes me cry every time I read it. She was faithful and sincere in her friendship, and kept checking in.
My mother’s cousin put sticky notes all over her house as a reminder to pray for me. I will forever be grateful to her.
Another person began sending me daily texts of scripture and encouragement while diligently praying every morning. She has become someone I deeply cherish.
There are countless other stories of true friends that brought me to my knees with their compassion. For that, I will always love them and look for a way to reciprocate.
The salve to a wound, the solace in any heartbreak, is connection to someone that cares. No two experiences are the same. Anyone that has ever attended a support group of any kind will tell you that. But what matters is that like soldiers and those that commit to saving our lives, there are people that will be pillars for us to lean against when we need support.
Life can be hard. And life can throw you curve balls you don’t expect, and have no idea how to handle. It is during these times that not only your own inner strength is revealed, but your friends as well.
I know that some people’s lives are so full, they can’t handle one more thing. I also understand the fear that arises with bad news.
For those that go, let them go. They are living their lives the best they know how and I wish their road ahead to be blessed.
For those that stay, I embrace and say, “Hang on tight, dear friend, it’s going to be wild and crazy ride!” And when the tables are turned, I’ll hold them up with all my might.