What Is A Friend? Have you ever asked yourself this question? For me, the answer has changed over the years as I've grown. When I was little, a friend was someone who liked the same things that I liked, who liked me, and who I enjoyed being around. Then it began to morph around grade school, then high school: a friend is someone who agrees with me; who won't hurt my feelings; who I feel safe with; who will protect my badge of honor; who won't grow, change and leave me. During and after college it manifested as someone who wouldn't tell me that I should dump the idiot I was dating; someone who wouldn't call me out on my 'issues.' As I've grown and gotten healthier, made and lost some friends, it's morphing again. Now, in addition to my friends being people I enjoy being around, my friends have started to be people who love me, but don't indulge my staying small. They disagree with me, at times. They call me on my issues. They do it compassionately, but they don't coddle me unless I ask them to, and we're both fully aware that that's what they're doing. I've chosen people who have a similar desire to grow, to have better, more productive lives and relationships, and who are willing to look at themselves and improve in that direction. I hadn't realized my relationships were changing until the other night. I had a surprising experience while out to dinner with a friend. Our friendship is fairly new so there are a lot of areas where we're still finding out about one another: how we will act and react, and so fourth. I had injured my back a few months ago and was telling my friend about the assignments my physical therapist had given me, one of which was to sit up straight (he's helping me correct years of bad posture). I had asked my friend's assistance in reminding me to sit up straight and to bear with me while I figured out how to do it, and while I felt vulnerable and silly (chest out to the world is very scary when one has been slouched over protectively for 30 years!). Coincidentally, she had hurt her arm and had been told by the doctor not to lean on it, the way she was accustomed to and she asked me to remind her to sit back in her chair instead of lean on it. Midway through dinner, I was tired and unconsciously started slouching. It felt homey and comfortable. She was leaning on the table as she always did, and because it all felt so normal, I didn't notice we were both doing something we didn't want to be doing. As I picked up a sweet potato fry and was about to eat it, my friend said, "Hey! Sit up!" Startled, I wasn't even sure what she was talking about, and her tone was one I wasn't used to hearing coming out of a friend's mouth. But she pulled her arms off of the table and sat back and I sat up, shoulders back, chest out, the way I'd been taught by my physical therapist. I was surprised at my internal reaction to what she had said. My initial thought was, "I was comfortable! Isn't she my friend? Can't we skip it? I've been sitting up straight for so much of this meal and it's more than I would have done at home!" And then I realized it. She was telling me to sit up because she wants me to have good posture too. She wants what I want for myself: for me to use my body in the best way possible, to be able to sit and stand comfortably, to be the person I have the potential to be. And she won't sit around and indulge my laziness about it (and here's the kicker) because she loves me. Because she loves me? But I'd thought love and friendship was supposed to feel like a warm chocolate chip cookie when you're on a diet! I'd thought friends let me slouch when I'm tired and not risk when I'm scared! Being a friend could mean she'd say something on purpose that would make me uncomfortable, that would call me on my stuff? Ouch! Moments after I felt the sting of offense that she would tell me to sit up straight (after I'd asked her to!), I had the most tremendous revelation: She wants for me what I want for me? And she's willing to stand up for it when I'm too busy feeling my feelings and not wanting to do it? She's willing to risk offending me and my comfort zone by reminding me what I really want? I was tremendously touched. She'd risk offending me because she loved me? I'd seriously never looked at it quite that way before. I hadn't realized until that moment that my definition of friend had changed. As uncomfortable as it was to be called on my 'stuff,' when I looked at it from the perspective that she was just helping me do what I actually wanted, because she was on my side, and seeing that "on my side" could actually mean helping me when I was too in my feelings to help myself, I realized I'd truly made a wonderful friend. And I realized I must have grown a lot to be able to receive that kind of friendship without turning away from it. What are your relationships like? What does being a friend mean to you? What does being loving mean to you? What does support look like for you? Do your friends let you off the hook after you let yourself off of it? Do you let them off the hook? Do you let them slouch, complain, avoid things you know would bring them what they have told you they want? Do they let you do that? Are your relationships set up so that you will always feel good around one another no matter what, even if it means neither of you grow, yet you say you want to grow. If so, is that what you really want? I challenge you to redefine what friendship, love, and support mean to you and see how your relationships stack up to your definitions. Some of your relationships may surprise you. Some people may be the kind of friend you want already and you may have brushed them off because it didn't feel good when they told you to quit your job after listening to you complain about it for 4 years straight. Or you might notice that some of your best friends never challenge you or they expect you to help them stay small and vice-versa. What kind of friendships do you want? What kind would support you? Where could you use some improvement. I am so grateful to have my friend as my friend. Not only is she a great example for the kind of friend I want to be, but it is really great to know that she will remind me of who I want to be when I start letting myself off the hook. It is wonderful to know that there is someone else looking out for my best besides me, and unlike me, won't cave to or cater to my feelings about it. So what about you? What does it mean to be a friend? (c) 2008 Rebecca P. Soulette Life Coach, Rebecca Soulette, CFLC III, is a senior level coach certified through the Fearless Living Institute. She is an expert in helping her clients to live fulfilling and balanced lives packed full of inspiration, joy, and freedom. She offers FREE ecourses, resources, teleclasses, private 1:1 and group coaching. For more information or to sign up for her FREE email newsletter, check out http://www.RebeccaSoulette.com This article can be reprinted freely online, as long as the entire article and this resource box are included. d.