A time when old friendships exist on the fuel of nostalgia, new friendships lack the full substance for us to completely trust one another, and then there’s the array of friends who sit somewhere on the pendulum in between the two.
Friendships are crucial. They impact our health, longevity in life and reflect what our priorities are. They’re so important that friendships are actually one of the key emotions babies recognize before they start walking and talking, through observing the friendships of their parents, caregivers and those around them. With that in mind, how do we retain our key friends and rectify broken relationships?
Not all friendships are equal. Some will fill us up and others drain us. Sounds brutal, but think about the diversity of your friendships – some you will look forward to with delight, they carry this ease and excitement and others require more mental work to prep for them.
We often have two different types of friendships: the “sourcer” and the “out-sourcer”. Let me explain. Take the example of a waterfall.
A waterfall has three parts to it:
Our friends are the same. There are some who source us and others we outsource too.
Hypothetically consider that you’re the actual waterfall itself. You have messages and circumstances that feed into you. Among these, a strong influence being friends (especially at our age and stage of life). If we’re not being sourced into by anything, then like waterfalls, we’re dead…literally.
Yet, similar to a waterfall the quality of the water and source can vary. Ironically, there is a big difference between a muddy and pure stream waterfall. In the same way, the quality of our “source” friends can vary.
It can be difficult to determine the quality of our “sourcers”. We can have negative, and in extreme cases, toxic friends feeding into us (often unbeknown to us). It’s not until we retrospectively look at the byproduct of that friendship that we can determine it’s quality.
Muddy waterfalls look and act the same as a pure stream waterfall. The difference is in the ‘outsource’ stage. A muddy stream or pond, won’t have life in or near it. In fact, over time it will kill off anything close by.
Then look at a pure stream waterfall. There is life all around it. Everything the water touches grows and develops. Our friendships are no different. When we are being sourced, lifted up and growing ourselves – it has a ripple on effect. It becomes an encouragement for others and creates a safe place to dream big and boldly step out.
This is a CRITICAL point. Regardless of where a friend is placed in our perception towards the friendship, it by no means is a way to justify how we treat one another. A “source” friend is not any better than an “outsource” friend.
The difference is simply in the power and influence we give the person to speak into who we are. “Outsource” friends can be the most lovely people in the world, but like life, may not be a good fit. They might not understand your thinking, or you’ve been vulnerable with them on multiple occasions, and for a variety of reasons, the feeling might not be reciprocated back.
On the other hand, “source” friends are those who you build trust with, and over time, as you grow closer you let them in slowly. They’re the one’s who know you. They’re the ones who have permission to challenge you, whose opinion’s matter, and who will encourage you in who you are – not exert unrealistic expectations on who you should be. In a world where you’re constantly told who you should be, your “sourcers” remind you of the beauty of who you are, regardless of any flaws or perceived shortcomings.
The beauty is that regardless of where our friendships sit, they are so important. Friendships allow us to have the opportunity to care deeply, show compassion and reflect true value into the lives of those we love.