Anytime my mind bubbles with a new idea or initiative, usually, one of my first things to do, is to discuss with a friend. Obviously, not any friend per se, but some friend whom I find worthy of telling. Then it comes down to them either affirming my idea or suggesting other ways I hadn’t thought of previously. I’d say I’m lucky to have supportive and wise friends such that I’ve always ever received encouragement and proper guidance whenever I confronted them with anything. This, I’ve learned, is not so for everybody. Good friends are priceless, and if you happen to have some, be grateful for them.
In talking about friends, I would like us to consider our friends in two categories in this write up. I believe there are many other ways we can categorize our friends if asked to; from close to casual to school to workplace friends, etc, etc. But today, I want us to look at our friends from these two exclusive angles based on the kind of support we receive from each separate group. So, we have the “cheerleaders” and then, the “truth-tellers.” Nevermind if you’re confused, just follow me keenly and the path will soon be clear as we go along.
So you might be asking why this categorization or grouping? Everyone of us, I believe, is a friend to someone, as someone is also, a friend to us. And the one thing we expect from friends or our friends expect from us is what? Support! And if that’s the case, we may fall into either one of these friendship categories or both, even.
Let’s start with the friends I call cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are the best friends anyone can ever have or wish to have. You always have their support and no matter what, they’ve got your back. Just like the name says, basically, they’ll cheer you on in anything and everything. They tell you what you want to hear. If you have lots of cheerleaders as friends, you don’t have to be worried about not gaining support or love or encouragement for anything you decide to take on. Tell a cheerleader and you’re good to go. This, regardless of how nice it may seem, has its own downside. And interestingly, most of us turn out to be cheerleaders to our friends. Mainly because it’s easy and doesn’t require much effort. Besides, what are friends for, if not to support and cheer one another on? Exactly.
Now let’s talk also about the other group of friends I like to call the truth-tellers. Now these kinds of friends are rare, mostly because, it isn’t so easy to be one. It can be quite uncomfortable to be that kind of friend to your friends and so most of us just avoid it. A truth-telling friend is one who tells you the truth, exactly like the name says. Truth-tellers don’t just jump up at anything you throw at them, they look critically at issues. They critique you and chastise you if they have to. They tell you if you’re in the wrong and try to direct you to the right. If an idea doesn’t make sense or doesn’t seem plausible enough, expect a truth-teller to point it out to you right away.
Now you see why most of us wouldn’t want to tow this line? Yes. Because it’s easy to think a truth-teller as probably unsupportive or discouraging or unloving enough or even a naysayer. Truth is hard; it is a bitter pill people do not like to swallow so you definitely do not want to be the doctor administering that pill. But the truth is that truth-telling friends also love us and in fact wish us well in most cases than cheerleading friends.
So now that we understand the basis of the two categorizations, I implore you to look at yourself first, then look at your friends and people around you. Try to see who you can point out easily as a cheerleader or as a truth-teller. Myself, I like to consider that I’m both, but then I also know I am more of a cheerleader than a truth-teller. Because sometimes, it takes guts to be a truth-teller so why not tilt to the easier side and just move along?
Although I recommend that our friends be a mixture of both categories, for me it is particularly important that we appreciate truth-telling friends equally and even more than cheerleading friends. This is because most truth-tellers get passed as bitter, unsupportive, and sometimes “the jealous friend” when they are just being honest and speaking the truth. Now don’t get me wrong, we do have some friends who are really like that and should not be tolerated. But when you have a friend, who genuinely cares and wants the best for you point out something incorrect or wrong about you, to you, they shouldn’t have to be made to feel like the devil.
You find that especially, when it comes to romantic relationships, most friends would prefer to be cheerleaders than truth-tellers. Even we, ourselves, do not like our truth-telling friends when it gets to that aspect of our lives. A lot of the relationships that end badly, I guarantee, could have been prevented by just a word from the best friend of one of the couples. Dig deeper and you’ll find that either they didn’t say anything because they didn’t want to look like a “friend slanderer” or they did say it after all, but one of the couple or both of them didn’t listen because, love (smiles wryly).
So you see, as humans, we make it exceptionally hard for the people around us to be truth-tellers. Because it’s hard for us to accept that there’s a fault in our thinking or that our perspective of something is flawed. We say we want the truth but one hundred percent of the time, that’s a big, fat lie. What we want rather, is our idea of what we think the truth is, and should be, and so when the real truth is told us, we tend to get mad and make the sayers of truth feel bad, as though it were their fault we’re not ready to face the truth as it is. So then, to be on the safer side, all of us turn into this huge band of cheerleaders waving each other into pitfalls.
But I think, in order for life to be balanced, one needs a bit of everything. So when it comes to your friends, be a cheerleader when you need to. But don’t hesitate to be a truth-teller, also when you need to. The latter will demand of you to be bold but the former comes naturally to us. You’ll be tempted to fall on the former easily when tricky situations arise; instances like where you have a friend who doesn’t take criticisms well, a friend who does not like to be corrected or told they are wrong, a friend who cannot face hard truths about themselves. But that shouldn’t deter you from standing firmly and speaking your truth to them.
First, you have a responsibility to them, to be a good friend. Second, if they get mad or don’t listen to you and then things don’t go well, they’d at least remember you told them so. And they won’t turn around and blame you for not stopping them in the first place (because yes, we humans are strange like that).
Our ability to tell people the truth shouldn’t be dependent on their reception of it; on whether or not it’ll be well received or received at all. It should rather, I think, be dependent on our personal resolution to stay truthful to ourselves and the people we care about. The truth will always be hurtful. That’s why we must always say it with love and care. But it must in no way be substituted with sugar-coated lies in order to please or shield us from the undeserving wrath of others.
So I’ll implore you to be both a truth-teller and a cheerleader to your friends. And make sure to also get friends who extend you the same courtesy. Because our friends hold the power to make or unmake us.
Thank you for reading this nonfiction piece from me. I appreciate you coming all the way. I hope it blessed you in some way. Do let me know in the comments if it did. And also, what kind of category do you think you or your friends fall in?