There’s a friend in mind as I write this. She’s more sister than friend. She’s more family than my blood siblings.
How I lucked onto such an amazing human being is beyond me, but I did, and it’s wonderful. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful we travel the cosmos together via this big, varied Earth.
This connection wasn’t simply pulled from the ether, nor does it maintain itself by sparkles and rainbows. There are certain qualities that must be shared in order to form the bonds of good and true friendship.
1. They’re Kind
You’d think this was a given for any type of human interaction, but kindness is often overlooked.
We’ve likely experienced that “bend over backwards” kind of kindness that, to be honest, makes people a little uncomfortable.
The kindness of a good friend is more the “stand with you” variety. Rather than give you the shirt off their back, they’ll make sure that both of your needs are tended to so that there’s never a need for either of you to greet the world half naked.
A good friend is going to let you know when they’re hurt by you, confused by you, see you being foolish, and can tell when you’re hiding.
A lot of people don’t want to do any of these. It’s easier for them to hide behind “I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
Thing is, good friends share. Even pain. Discomfort enters everywhere in life; it’d be dishonest to pretend it avoids friendship altogether.
3. They’re Individual
A sense of identity creates amazing bonds. Good friends aren’t trying to become you, they’re fully-realized unto themselves.
Their sense of individuality plays off your own, and even enhances areas in both of you that may have gone unnoticed before.
And while dreams, goals, and temperaments are often similar, even the best symbiotic friendships know there are times when each individual must pull away to reflect and rejuvenate on their own.
4. They’re Adventurous
Boredom is the absence of stimulation, be it mental, emotional, or physical stimulation.
Good friends satisfy all three of those areas; they’re adventurous in that they like to do things, think things, feel things, and share in those things with you.
This doesn’t necessarily mean mountain climbing or bungee jumping; a trip to a new restaurant will do.
The desire and willingness to experience the world is an inseparable part of friendship because it says “take my hand and let’s see what’s out there!”
5. They’re Playful
If not for good friends, milk would never have snorted from your nose in junior high; you wouldn’t have half as many stories about the things you did in college; half of those stories wouldn’t involve nudity in one fashion or another, and today, as adults, there’s still a chance of liquids snorting from your nose. Except now it’s wine.
Friends play with us. They make us laugh at the most inopportune moments (devils) and catching a twinkle in their eyes is like the promise of Christmas morning.
The world pretends to be a serious place, but playtime stops it dead in its tracks every time.
6. They’re Protective
Jimi Hendrix was probably thinking about a good friend when he came up with the lyric, “I stand up next to a mountain, I chop it down with the edge of my hand.”
Good friends aren’t protective of you in a self-interested, possessive way; they’re protective of you, all the oddly shaped, precious, intrinsic bits that make up your traveling soul, because those are the bits that truly gravitationally attract us to bright, brilliant souls.
It is a mission they take upon themselves often without knowing they’ve done so, but they’ll do it from here to eternity, whether standing up to a mountain, shielding you from impending harm, or even at times protecting you from yourself.
7. They’re Trustworthy
There are people we trust only as far as we see them. Those don’t make good friends.
Then there are those whom we’d place everything that makes us “us” into an egg, give it to them, and allow them to race on pogo sticks across a booby-trapped, rubble-strewn field while we sip lemonade during the wait for them to return it.
We trust our good friends to be good people. If not: splat.
Yes, a good friend holds your hair aside for you while you perform the gutbucket serenade, but she also makes sure you’re eating enough, getting enough rest, sinking into bubble baths at least once a month, and listening wide-eyed as you recount to her your latest achievement or newfound goal.
Good friends become friends, parents, lovers, doctors, and confidants all in one without it ever seeming squicky or difficult.
9. They Listen
Compassion and empathy combine to make our good friends excellent listeners because, honestly, who wants to project “Me, me, me” all the time at anyone?
It’s good to be silent and allow our friends to fill us with themselves, as they do with us.
A good friend listens to your hopes, fears, questions, dreams, foolishness, musings, prattlings, and more, not out of obligation, but because they genuinely care.
10. They’re Helpful
A good friend has your back. Not in a pinch. Always.
If you’re tired, they take on your load. If you need help figuring something out, they’re your research partners. They neither tally nor begrudge, and if one task is done and you need them for more, they have no problem being there. Period.
11. They Have Clairvoyance
Perhaps not Stephen King-level clairvoyance (couldn’t hurt though), but good friends often seem to know what you need before you need it.
Miraculously, they call at just that point during your work day from hell when you’re about to fling staplers like throwing stars, then immediately you’re calm enough for one more meeting before quitting time.
Is this merely a function of knowing your moods and routines, or is a deeper connection at play? The fun in certain mysteries is in not even trying to figure them out.
“Laissez les bons temps rouler!” – Let the good times roll – is the rallying cry of friends everywhere, but it’s one that a good friend tempers with the knowledge that impermanence is part of life.
Good times end, or sometimes have to wait, but that doesn’t stop the joy of having a friend live in your heart one bit.
13. They’re Respectful
Respectful of you, respectful of your time, respectful of your right to make mistakes: these are hallmarks of someone worthy of being allowed into your life.
Respectful of the things you love, the things you fear, the things you avoid. Without respect, friendship slips into becoming just another of narcissism’s mirrors: you see the other as little more than an extension of you until they’re no longer useful.
14. They’re Fearlessly Huggable
Hugs are so necessary in this life. A good friend is one who hugged you yesterday, the day before, and sees no reason why they wouldn’t today.
Everyone’s frequency varies, but living as though there’s no rule against serial hugging tends to be a win-win scenario.
15. They’re Open-Hearted
Friendship is like an extreme sport of soul-to-soul connectivity: we’re slamming about on this Earth never knowing where we’ll bounce or who these people we bounce off of are. Extreme humaning.
It takes guts to open yourself to someone who feels as randomly placed on a planet as you do. But good friends do this. They open their hearts, bare their souls, and leave space for you to tuck away a piece of yourself in there for safekeeping.
It’s a long journey, this extreme humaning; good friends not only make the trip bearable, they transform it into a rowdy, wild, absolute delight.