Life Lessons in Fear Fighting Love & Friendship

Figuring Out Friendships

So, if you’re like me- you’ve got a whole bunch of different types of friends.

1. The Fierce Friends (only 1 or 2 of them in your life; full marble jar)

These are the few close friends who never leave your side. You could not see them for months, and it wouldn’t matter. They always pop up at the right times, and you do the same for them.

2. The Genuine Friends (only a handful of them; almost full marble jar)

You’ve also got one or two close friends that don’t come around quite as much as you’d like, but you love them anyway for what they are when you do get together.

3. The For-A-Reason Friends (a bunch of them; half-full marble jar)

Then you have a whole bunch of acquaintances. Some are in your life for a specific reason, which can be as simple as you share a love for the same types of restaurants or movies and love going with them once in a while. You probably wouldn’t share your personal stuff with these friends, and it might not be a good idea if you are doing that.

4. The “Hi, How Was Your Weekend?” Friends (a lot of them, especially at work; almost empty or brand new marble jar)

Some you know you should generally stay away from, but you’re still nice to them on the surface. You definitely don’t share much with these friends beyond what you did over the weekend.

5. The Friends of Friends (a few; just a little more than new marble jar since your friend trusts them)

We can’t leave off the friends of friends. Usually if you have a Fierce friend or a Genuine friend who has another good friend, you probably like them a little more than your typical One-Reason Friend, so they get their own category. You probably want to explore these friendships even more.

I think I’ve figured out how to navigate the friendship waters, and I can share it with you thanks to these two things.

Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly

I’ve mentioned it before, and it is a game changer. Please. If you don’t care about anything else I say, just read this book. It’s helpful for literally everyone. If you’re going through something, you’re anxious, or even if you’re one of those “normal” people without issues like us- it will still help you.

My Life Experiences

I would consider myself a Fierce Friend to the few close friends I have. If they needed something, I would drop anything to be there for them, and I’ve done that plenty of times. We may not see each other all the time, but I would never let them down. I’d like to think I make an effort to reconnect as much as possible.

Most of my friends are Fierce Friends in return in my time of need, but a few haven’t stepped up to the plate. And some I thought were good friends, but they broke the trust in a major way, so I retracted and relabeled them. I’ve experienced the amazing thing a friendship can be, but I’ve felt the disappointment side of things too. It doesn’t mean I care for them any less, and I have learned why I don’t need to address this with them. It’s really just all a part of the inner workings of our friendship.

Now. Here’s the part where I’ll tell you why you need some of each of the friendship types, and I’ll also tell you how you know which is which. 

It’s all thanks to the Marble Jar Metaphor, which comes from Brene Brown’s research.

Every single friend you meet from Fierce Friends to “Hi, How Are Ya” Friends start with an invisible marble jar. It’s invisible because this marble is in your mind. It never needs to be discussed with anyone, and you don’t tell people about these marbles, or you’ll sound like you’ve lost yours. Just keep them quietly in your mind. Be reflective about your friendships.

The marbles in each jar represent a lot of things, but they mostly represent trust. Each friend naturally starts out with about 10 marbles in their jar. We need to give them a chance to prove themselves as a friend, so even if we’re cautious with someone, we give them a little head start.

As your friendship goes on, little moments will tell you what to do with this jar.

Let’s say you and a new friend are supposed to go to the movies on Saturday night, but she cancels at the last minute, giving a whole slew of excuses. She doesn’t try to reschedule, and you get the feeling she never really wanted to go.

It’s all up to you, but this might be her first marble loss. You trusted her to tell you the truth about your plans, and if she couldn’t go, a genuine apology without the excuse and true intention to reschedule would have been a better move. Don’t fight with her about it, don’t try to convince her to go, just simply remove a marble from her jar in your mind. She may simply not be a genuine friend, but she might not have moved all the way down the ladder just yet.

On the other hand, let’s say you’ve had a friend for quite a while, so now you know about this marble jar thing, and you’re trying to evaluate. Maybe at one point you trusted this friend enough to tell them some things you were vulnerable about, like your relationship troubles.

(By the way, these types of vulnerability really need to be reserved for the top two friendship types. Anyone with a low marble jar should not hear about your personal life. It’s dangerous because they’ve already proven they may throw it back in your face or gossip about you.)

What your friend chooses to do with your personal information will tell so much about what to do with these marbles.

Does she listen intently and give you advice without getting too invested in it? Does she assure you (and you can trust her assurance) she’ll support you no matter what, but gives you her best opinion? That’s perfect. Give her a bunch of marbles! Bonus points if when you share a success story with her, she’s truly happy for you.

Does she listen but then change the subject to herself? Or she listens, but her advice is so passionate, you’re pretty sure if you don’t follow it, she’ll get annoyed? Or she listens, but you’re pretty sure she’s taking it all in so she can call up her other friend and dish about your problems? Or you can tell she’s getting joy from your misery? Don’t say anything, just stop telling her about your life, and take out a bunch of marbles. This is dangerous.

The same goes for those Genuine Friends who just haven’t come around when you’ve really needed them. Sometimes you feel you give and give in a friendship, but then in your time of need, they don’t seem to pick up on your cries for help. I think this is important to mention, because they don’t have quite a full marble jar.

You may want to scream, “HELLO! Now I need you. Where ARE you? Why do I have to BEG you to notice my need now?” But, you don’t need to do that. Just take a few marbles from her jar. It’s Ok, and you shouldn’t even be hurt by it. Some friends just won’t always be Fierce Friends, or they’ll make a mistake. You need both Fierce and Genuine Friends, and it’s Ok to have both. It’s also Ok to gently remind them you need them now. They probably will step up to the plate. It’s not worth the argument.

And, I can’t stop without mentioning excuses again. In my mind, excuses definitely constitute marble removal, one marble at a time. Excuses get old, they feel like little lies, and they can really hurt. Friends who constantly make excuses for breaking or not making plans just need to be a different type of friend in your mind. A true friend genuinely apologizes for their mistake and changes from it.

Remember, every single type of friend is important. You certainly don’t need to isolate yourself from anyone, even those with an empty jar. Some people quickly come in and out of your life, but it’s for a reason. You need to choose wisely who you will share your vulnerability with, or who you will simply have a good time with. And, of course, it’s important to think about what kind of friend you’re being in return.

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