You know when a friend is really a friend?
When you really, really need help, and they appear, ready for action.
"How to Be a Friend in Deed" by Bruce Feiler peels away the cop-outs that many (including me) avail of when it comes to potentially uncomfortable situations where friends are floundering.
Tweeting "The sun will come out tomorrow" is not exactly useful. Texting "Hugs!" is bare comfort. Leaving messages "Tell me if you need anything" puts the onus on the receiver as opposed to the giver.
The same way parenting can't be executed through a screen, so to with active friendship; proximity is required, hands at the ready.
If there is a common theme, it’s that while technology does offer support, many still crave the real thing. Crisis is a test of friendship, and success, in this case, is measured in intimacy.
Sometimes the needy friend just wants to escape reality with a night out talking about shoes. And whatever you do, don't Pollyanna them. That's not fair. You can Pollyanna yourself as much as you like, but barfing all those rays of light on someone else is the easy way out.
“A friend of mine did the best thing,” he said. “Rather than say everything would be O.K., he said quite simply: ‘I will like you if I’m the last person to do so. There’s nothing you can do to put me off you. You’re stuck with me for life. You may hate yourself, and the world may, too; but I won’t follow suit.’ ”
Mr. de Botton said he found the gesture comforting: “Friends should entertain the darkest scenarios and show you that these would, nevertheless, be survivable.” Instead of placating with false optimism, he said, “I need grim, grim realism, combined with stoic fortitude — colored by a touch of gallows humor.”
Sharing knowledge of the darkness is way more comforting, as well as stories of one's own struggles.
“When someone is vulnerable with you, it seems only polite to be at least a little bit vulnerable back,” she said. “If someone says, ‘Sometimes I regret every one of my life choices,’ don’t just stand there nodding smugly. Volunteer your own regrets. Everyone has them. And if you don’t, I’d say it’s a wonder you have any friends.”