I used to think that friends were the people who unconditionally comforted you when you felt wronged, showed up for you when you felt needy and insecure, joined you in righteous indignation when you felt angry, and validated you when life isn’t going your way. I thought friends would be unconditional cheerleaders, and you would always feel better after being with a friend. But lately, I’ve realized that my most valuable friends are the ones who stand for my soul, even when that means saying something my ego doesn’t want to hear.
When a friend stands for your soul, she holds you accountable to your highest potential and expects you to do the same for her. When a friend stands for your soul, she understands how your ego operates - and loves and accepts you in spite of - even because of - what she knows. But she doesn’t sit by complacently when she watches you create your own suffering. She calls you on it lovingly and pushes you in the direction of your highest self.
When a friend stands for your soul, she holds you and comforts you when you feel wronged, but she doesn’t engage in story fondling with you. She knows there’s no need to hash and rehash your sob story, because doing so only keeps you stuck. As soon as you’ve grieved and lashed out and you feel strong enough, a friend who stands for your soul reminds you that it’s time to end your pity party and be in the solution. She even helps you find meaning in whatever left you feeling hurt or angry because she knows even tragedies aren’t random, that life is purposeful, even when it’s hard.
When a friend stands for your soul, he’s willing to say what others won’t, the things people might be whispering behind your back because they don’t love you enough to say it to your face. But he never intends to be critical, and he’s never, ever mean. He is wind beneath your wings, helping to lift you higher, and he trusts that you will give him the same gift.
I used to think a real friend would stick around forever and never ever abandon you, that if we were real friends, we’d still be together when we’re both 85 in our rocking chairs. But now I know this isn’t the case. When a friend stands for your soul, she might have to leave the relationship, because she has been patient as she watches you choose your small self over your larger self - again and again. At some point, she can’t be true to her own soul unless you share the same commitment to trying to live in alignment with yours. Standing for your soul might require tough love. But the invitation is always there. She will be steadfast in standing for your soul, even as you stray off your path. She will still be there for you when you’re finally ready to accept the invitation to come home to Who You Really Are.
Standing for the soul of a friend isn’t easy. It requires uncomfortable conversations. It would be easier to just say yes to your friend’s ego. But when a friend unconditionally loves you and stands for your soul, it takes courage. It can be disruptive. There might be tears and hurt feelings. But a friend stands for your soul with great love and gentleness, even as she says what you don’t want to hear. Real friends don’t judge. They elevate you while they illuminate the parts of you that you hoped they’d never discover.
It’s all worth it though, because these soul friends help you grow, and they invite you to grow with them. They are your guiding lights during dark nights of the soul, taking you by the hand and returning you to yourself. They cheer with you when you make difficult choices while standing for your own soul. These relationships are dynamic, ever-changing, ever-upleveling, ever-celebrating the magnificence of who you are becoming on your spiritual path. These friends are the guideposts leading you to freedom, and they enjoy the journey with you. They laugh with you, dance with you, gaze at the heavens with you, and revel in sunsets with you. They get quiet with you. They listen to your vulnerable stories and tell you theirs. They keep the heart open with you, and in the communion of two open hearts, you find connection, belonging, vitality, and joy. If you’re lucky, they even bring chocolate.
Do you have friends brave enough to stand for your soul? Do you return to the gift to others? In the Medicine For The Soul program I just finished leading with Rachel Naomi Remen, we invited our students to make a list of friends who stand for your soul. Who are they? Are you cultivating these relationships? If nobody comes to mind, might you invite someone to show up for your in this way? Will you show up for someone else with this much love? Share your story in the comments.
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, and the host of the hit National Public Television special Heal Yourself: Mind Over Medicine (link). Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com, teaches teleclasses (link) with luminaries like Martha Beck, Rachel Naomi Remen, Amy Ahlers, and Tosha Silver, and has sparked a movement to revolutionize health care at HealHealthCareNow.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, a lover of dancing, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
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