Growing up is a strange process, but, I must admit, I'm really enjoying it.
With each passing day, I find myself caring less and less about the superficial things I once loved and instead, caring more about the things that actually matter in life: family, friendships and most importantly, love.
It's not that I didn't previously know these were the most important things in life; it was more so that I wasn't living like these were the things most important to me.
While I have always tried to be a good friend, a good daughter and a good sister, the older I get, the more I realize that believing yourself to be a good person simply isn't enough. How you treat the people you say you love is truly the only thing that counts.
Are you there for those whom you care about most? Or, do you make selfish excuses for why you can't show up? You're tired, you have work to finish, your kids are sick, you don't have the money, you can't find a sitter, it's a far drive, you have nothing to wear, etc., etc.
While good intentions are nice, good intentions paired with actions that match is the best. So, here are five surefire ways to become the most loving, supportive person possible to the important people in your life.
1. Support them when they are sick.
One of my good friends recently became very sick and was hospitalized for a month. While she is a pretty, popular girl, less than 10 people made a genuine effort to support her during her troubling time.
She received tons of texts and Facebook posts offering her well wishes, but is that really good enough? When someone you say you love is sick, you should never just say, “Well, if there is anything I can do, let me know.”
Rather than offering empty words, show up. Ask if you can visit, pick up something small (flowers, a snack, a book, some magazines) and actually make a visit. It's so easy to offer moral support to a sick friend, yet very few actually do it.
2. Make birthdays special.
We all get just one birthday a year, so if you can't spend some time to make a friend's birthday special, you aren't fulfilling your friendly duties.
Record all of your friend's birthdays in a calendar so you're aware of them in advance. Shop for a nice, thoughtful gift and plan a get-together without rushing haphazardly at the last minute.
Your friends won't forget that you care about their special day and they will value the thought and effort immensely.
3. Tell the truth.
Oftentimes, people think being a friend means telling people exactly what they want to hear. While this may be the easiest way to go, it's not the best way to go.
You should always encourage your friends to live the best lives they can live, which usually involves some tough love. Your friends may not like what they hear, but if delivered with love and tact, eventually they will realize you only want the best for them and hopefully, they will appreciate the advice.
When offering constructive criticism, never insult your friends or drown them with your opinions, and always tread lightly if your advice is unsolicited.
4. Celebrate milestones.
Whether your loved one is having a baby, a baby shower, a wedding, a bridal shower or any other special event, if it is a good friend, help out enthusiastically.
Again, do not send a, “Let me know if you need help!” text — it's not enough. The best way to show support and excitement for these special times is to ask how you can help, not if you can help.
Also, flaking on these events is the best way to communicate that you simply do not care, so, flake accordingly. Whatever the excuse, all anyone really hears in these scenarios is, “I don't care about you.”
5. Invest effort.
Until recently, I was doing the majority of the work in most of my friendships. I was making the plans, driving to them and doing things that didn't really interest me all to make them happy.
However, solid relationships will withstand compromise and your real friends will split the workload with you evenly. If you have to do all of the work all of the time, you have an unhealthy relationship on your hands and you should make strides to voice your frustrations before you grow to resent the other party.
Ultimately, everyone wants strong, meaningful friendships, yet very few understand what it takes to create and maintain them. If you are not there for your friends during important moments in their lives and they do not contribute equally for your special moments, what is the point?
Sure, it's easy to get distracted by the craziness of life, but we must never forget: To have a friend, we must be one first.