What Do You Give?

What Do You Give?

Last night I drove out to the suburbs to hang out with my brother for his birthday. He had a few friends over at his house and put out a little spread of finger foods and played the Clash Pandora station while we all sat in a semi-circle and began making small talk. I didn’t know most of the people there but as the evening progressed, our conversation headed more into subjects like how children are raised and how genetics and family nurturing play into who we become as adults. There was no yelling or mockery. No one was bad-mouthing or talking over anyone and we each respected the other’s opinions. And by the end of the evening, I was hugging people who were strangers only a couple hours before. It was nice.

As I have grown older, I have found myself distancing myself from people I know are not good for my growth. I don’t care how much money a person makes, or what they do for a living, what books they have read, or what degrees they have on their wall – if they inspire me and motivate me, if they put new ideas in my head or help shine a light on a side of life that was unknown, I need to keep them around. While I have plenty of old friends who no longer fall into that category, I do limit my time with the people who are full of negativity. Some might call that a bit elitist, but I simply see it as self-preservation. Because there is nothing wrong with wanting better for yourself.

Money, suits, watches, houses, money, things – none of those things matter when you’re sitting in a semi-circle of people who are helping you make sense of the abuse you survived as a child. None of those things matter when you are telling horror stories of your youth and making someone feel like maybe they didn’t have it so bad.

“Man, after hearing about your father, it makes me want to call my mom and tell her maybe she wasn’t so bad.” He said, letting out a chuckle. We all laughed along but I think there was a bit of seriousness to the sentiment. My brother and I painted a picture of how awful our father was in a way that made the people in the room possibly re-think the upbringing they had experienced. It wasn’t our intention, but I have told enough stories about my childhood to recognize the wide-eyed stare off into the distance that washes over people while they’re deep in recollection.

It’s not my purpose to be a walking cautionary tale, but hey, if it makes you think then so be it. But that is the purpose of friends. To impact those around us in such a way that we cause them to take a closer look at their own lives and maybe catch something they have missed. Because the more we think, the more we understand ourselves. And the more we understand ourselves, we are left with fewer unanswered questions. And unanswered questions are what build spite, animosity, misunderstanding, hate, and self-loathing.

It is our jobs as friends, family, boyfriends, and girlfriends to help each other along. It is your job to provide support to those close to us. We can’t simply take from the relationships we have, we also have to nurture them as well. Consider it a thank you for all the times they have helped you along the way.

Tell a story. Ask about their job, their family, their worries, their childhood. Just be present. Because friendships aren’t only about discussing online drama and television shows. All relationships are based upon not only what you get but by what you give and how that makes you feel. And if you have found that you can’t keep friends, that people eventually seem turned off by you, and that you don’t have close friends – there usually is a reason. And that reason is usually because people don’t get anything or feel good from being around you.

We all want to feel good about ourselves but sometimes we need a little support. Reminders from those who know us best. People who will give it to us straight because it comes from a place of love. So you need to ask yourself two questions: How do I feel when I am around the people I have formed close relationships with? And, how do those people feel around me?

About author

Christopher Gutierrez

Christopher Gutierrez is the author of several books on love, sex, and relationships. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Deep End, in addition to running Deadxstop Publishing. Since 2006, he has given hundreds of speakings at colleges, coffee houses and universities all over the world.

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