Jewish Journal

Friendship—When to Hold On & When to Let Go

by Nicole Behnam

November 12, 2011 | 10:49 pm

“A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.” -Douglas Pagels

“Bestie,” “Partner-In-Crime,” “Other Half”—choose your preferred outdated cliché. We all have at least one, and if you’re lucky, you have at least one who maintains every characteristic that is crucial when it comes to being a good friend. In my Interpersonal Relations class at USC, an entire chapter was devoted to the topic of friendship.

Our friendships, according to the textbook, are indispensable sources of pleasure and support. Close friendships involve constant acceptance, support, enjoyment, caring, knowledge, trust, equality, and authenticity. Surely, not all of our friendships are comprised of all of these characteristics, which is normal. According to the book, here are some positive components of friendship to be thankful for:

Respect. We usually admire our friends and hold them in high esteem.

Trust. We are usually confident that our friends will behave benevolently towards us.

Responsiveness. Friends provide attentive and supportive recognition of our needs and interests.

Capitalization. Friends usually provide respond eagerly and energetically to our happy outcomes, sharing our delight and reinforcing our pleasure.

Social Comparison. We compare our beliefs and abilities to those of our friends in order to understand ourselves better.

Social Support. This comes in various forms, including affection, advice, and material assistance. Some people are better providers of social support than others are, and the best support fits our needs and preferences.

The first three components are crucial. The latter three are bonuses.

At this point in my life, I am grateful to have found the friends that I have. Without their support and recognition, my accomplishments would not feel as rewarding. I also love knowing that I have been a friend to many, that I have encouraged my friends to achieve, celebrated with them when they succeeded, and supported them during times of need.

And like every other human being, I have learned from the friendships I have lost.

A few months ago, my friend sent me a link to an article titled “Six Types of Toxic Friends and How You Can Deal with Them.” I began reading, and immediately, I thought to myself: “Wow, how wonderful it would be if we could all surround ourselves with only positive, caring friends—and eliminate the negative, unsupportive ones.”

It sounds harsh, but I can assure you that it isn’t. I’m not suggesting that you drop any and every friend who has ever made a mistake or offended you. Forgiveness plays a huge role in the maintenance of friendships, but there are some people who may cross the line—one too many times.

Something to think about: If you eliminated every person who has ever made a mistake from your life, you would have no friends left. Accept sincere apologies and believe that people can change for the better.

How to identify an unhealthy friendship:

Do you have a friend who consistently questions you or doubts you, to the extent that you begin to judge yourself?  A friend who labels you or uses semi-abusive words like “idiot” or “crazy” in a cruel, non-joking context? Let these types of people deal with their insecurities on their own.

At the same time, make sure you are being a good friend to people. Be supportive because you never know what somebody is going through. Watch your language, not just profanity. Be sensitive to people’s feelings. Be the friend you want to have.

“Bad People?” They don’t exist. The people you think are bad are merely victims of unfortunate circumstances. There is no need to judge them, but there is a need to distance yourselves.

If you constantly notice your “friend” making statements characterized by comparison, jealousy, or doubt, get out now. Frankly, some forms of criticism are simply not constructive.

People can be supportive and loving, but they can also be cruel and condescending. I prefer supportive and loving.

Here’s an UrbanDictionary-type example of what a statement from a supportive friend sounds like, and what a statement from a condescending friend sounds like. Sense the tone:

Sarah: I’m so happy! I just passed the California Bar Exam!

Supportive Friend: Sarah, my love, I’m so proud of you! You’re going to be such a wonderful and successful attorney!

Condescending Friend: Sarah, hun, you passing the Bar Exam is great and all, but are you sure you want to be a lawyer? I feel like you’re better with kids than adults. Maybe you should just be a mommy and not practice law.

As my friend Joseph once advised me: Cut the fat out of your life.

Here’s the link to the article, by the way.

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When Nicole Behnam was 15, she joined the school newspaper and discovered that journalism was one of her passions. To take her passion one step further, she called Brentwood...

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