In your corner: What our best friends have to teach us about care

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Last week we discussed the notion of care in college relationships. My column touched on the difficulty of navigating the new landscape of the “hook-up culture” and what it all means for us as human beings who seek love and compassion from others.

This week I’m not going to spend anytime talking about the pretty person you made out with over the weekend or the boy you hooked up with, but instead I’m going to spend time focusing on someone who really knows and appreciates you–for every mental breakdown they’ve watched you undergo and every obstacle they’ve witnessed you overcome. Your best friend.

Synonymous with a cheering fan, a study partner, late night snacker, sleepover buddy and sometimes even therapist, these are the people who understand you, comfort you, provide warmth and safety when it seems even the world can’t provide it. I think a discussion of care starts here. That the standards for both taking care of each other and taking care of ourselves can begin in these most meaningful and important relationships.

Perhaps if we could learn care in the realm of our most critical relationships we’d learn care for ourselves and for those beyond just our closest, inner circle of friends. If we can learn honesty and openness, vulnerability and courage in telling our best friends how we truly feel; if we can learn admittance, acceptance, grace, patience and forgiveness when we make mistakes; if we can learn to say “I just have nothing left to give right now” and “it’s okay, I understand,” and truly mean it; if we can learn how to communicate expectations, create space for one another to show-up how they need to in any given moment; how to set boundaries without feelings or remorse, guilt or shame in our best, most true relationships–could it really be true that it’s impossible to employ these same principles with ourselves and in relationships beyond those we have with our best friends?

Perhaps care isn’t as hard as we make it out to be and that most feelings, days, tasks and relationships aren’t as complicated as we think. We’re just not honest. And I have to believe that’s the beginning of learning how to care: to be fully honest with those you love and for them to be fully honest in their response.

However, this practice in honesty must begin with ourselves. Honesty is not an outward practice; it is inward. We cheat on exams simply for the reason we know somewhere deep inside we’re not being honest about how much we studied, how confident we feel, etc., and its no different when it comes to caring. We have to be really honest about how we feel about our lives, our relationships, our wants and needs, before we can share them with another person. So maybe our best friends have simply taught us what it would be like to be our own best friends, and maybe that is where we all need to start when it comes to learning how to take care of one another.

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