Good friends vs. other friends Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Jun. 26, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

What is a true friend?

When I was younger, friendship was defined more by convenience than by choice. My best friend at school was the kid who always let me eat her candy. My best friend at day care was the only other girl who preferred reading instead of Barbies. It didn't matter that we had nothing else in common. That shared interest made us besties.

Friendships change as you get older. Sometimes friendships deepen, and sometimes they wither. Sometimes God brings people into our lives for just a little while, and sometimes they stick around for years.

Having friends is important for people of all ages, but at no time in my life did it feel more crucial to have good friends than in high school. Having good friends meant that school dances were more fun, classes were more interesting and weekends more uproarious.

My true friends always told me the truth. They listened when I needed an open ear and were there for me when I felt down. We shared more than interests. We shared morals and values. They made me feel as if I could be a better person.

But not all friends are like that. I've had my share of friends and acquaintances that I call "energy vampires" -- people who take, take, take, and never give.

First, there's the "fair-weather friend," who's up for going out to the mall or the game as long as everything is fun, but the moment you need help, they bail.

Then there's the "backstabber," who is fine to your face but tells rumors and lies about you to other people. There are many reasons people do this, but I find that they usually do this to make themselves look better in front of the popular kids.

There's also the "critic," or the friend who always has something negative to say about the movie you're watching, the shirt you're wearing, or the homework you're doing. They complain, complain, complain. Nothing is ever good enough for them.

What about the gossips, who dish all of your secrets to others because that's just what they do? Or the jealous ones, who always try to make you feel guilty if you ever hang out with someone else besides them?

Maybe you see some of that behavior in yourself. Are you a fair-weather friend sometimes?

My mother always used to tell me that friendship was like a group of nesting circles. In the center circle were our best friends, the true-blue family members who would always be there. In the circle outside that one came fair-weather friends -- people we liked, but weren't always around when the rubber hit the road. Outside that circle were acquaintances.

Not everyone has to be in the center circle. We need acquaintances, too, to live happy lives. But when it comes to fair-weather, backstabbing, or gossipy friends, maybe it's better to allow them to move to the outside of the circle so you can be happier with the people who matter.

We can still care about what happens to others. We can be nice to them, help them out, even head off to the mall with them. But choosing to include them in the "inner circle" may not be advisable.

Remember the one rule that's always right: The best way to get better friendships is to be a better friend.

Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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