I think we all struggle, at times, to understand who is a true friend. We are in a time where judgment just plain stinks. But, you have to have a standard. And, that requires judgment. That judgment is about protection, it’s about who may hurt you and who you can discern will not. Age old question, who can I trust? Joan tackles this in this week’s column.

A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you. – Elbert Hubbard

Q. Let’s talk about friends. When we’re young, we use the word ‘friend’ much like you say it’s used on social media, in a flipant way. But what is it really and how do you make one?

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Joan: Making friends is tough. It takes time, trust, and a little bit of luck. Thanks to Facebook, the word ‘friend’ has taken on a new meaning. What was once reserved to describe special people in our life, is now used to describe just about everyone in our life. But, do all of these people live up to the definition of a true friend? Or, are they merely acquaintances from which we expect so much more?

Q. How do we know who’s a friend and who’s not?

Joan: Recently, someone asked me just that: what do I believe are the qualities of a good friend? To answer this question, I looked at my relationships to find some commonalities and to examine my behavior. In doing so, I compiled a list of what I believe makes a good friend. There are many more qualities that can be added, but I think these are the biggies. Finding someone who embodies these attributes and being this person for another is a true gift.

Keeps your secrets. Perhaps one of the best ways to determine true friendship is to see who keeps your secrets. A true friend would never make you the subject of idle gossip and would go to the grave with something you said in confidence. Finding a confidant can be quite challenging, but when you do, cherish that person and hold on with everything you’ve got.

  • Does not judge. We all make mistakes and do stupid things. A true friend does not judge you and will not treat you differently, no matter what you’ve done. He or she will stand by your side when everyone else has turned against you. A true friend likes you because of who you are.
  • Tells you things you may not want to hear. Sometimes you may not see that you’re involved in harmful behavior, physically or emotionally. You may be in a romantic relationship that doesn’t serve you well, have a dead end job, or be abusing substances. During these times, a true friend will tell you things you don’t necessarily want to hear. This person will speak the hard truths and will be someone on whom you can depend for brutal honesty.
  • Motivates you to do better. A true friend is your cheerleader who sees your potential and pushes you to do better. This person is not jealous of your accomplishments and will always encourage you to believe in yourself, because he or she believes in you. This friend challenges you and builds you up, he or she doesn’t tear you down.
  • Offers light when you lose your way. A true friend is always there to listen when you are not sure about anything in your life. This person provides light and comfort when everything goes dark and is always by your side (even when you don’t ask for help).
  • Provides unconditional love. You don’t have to work for a true friend’s affection; the love is not based on what you do for him or her. This person doesn’t care about your financial status or job position. You are loved solely because of who you are.
  • To have a friend and be a friend is one of life’s greatest joys. As Albert Camus said, “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”