In a recent moment of nostalgia, I was re-reading an old favorite, Charlotte’s Web. And when Charlotte essentially sacrifices her life to save her best friend, Wilbur (sorry for the spoiler, if a book published in 1952 can still have spoilers)—it still gets me all choked up.
As an adult, it made me think: In a world where you can have more than 3,000 online “friend” connections, what makes a real, true, lasting friendship?
Yes, there are lots of friends who pepper our world. Partying pals, business acquaintances, cool colleagues you grab a cold one with after work. But what makes a real ride-or-die?
1. You can show them all sides of you.
A real friend isn’t there just for the good times: celebrations, happy events, when you’re in a good mood… they’re there for you in times of pain, uncertainty, and failure too. This is often when we most need our friends.
Who will check in on you regularly when you’re sick? Who will give you a ride to the airport when you’re stressed? Who will listen when you need to rant about your boss? Who will attend a relative’s funeral with you? Friendship is multidimensional, and it’s a 365-days-a-year privilege.
2. They don’t judge you.
Trust is created when you can be met without judgment, no matter what.When something embarrassing, upsetting, or awful happens (maybe you made a bad decision or trusted the wrong person?) or something goes awry and you can’t deal with it alone, a real friend will listen without judging. Brene Brown says we’re blessed to have just one or two friends we can trust with our “shame stories.”
“Most of us can steamroll over these friends while we work to win the approval and acceptance of people who really don’t matter in our lives—people we’d never call when we were in a real struggle,” she says.
Who can you trust with something that feels ugly?
3. They speak truth (even if it hurts).
I once told my best friend that she could no longer complain about her boyfriend to me. They were on-again, off-again, and he was borderline abusive. She’d call and cry and come over and cry some more. We’d sip wine and she’d simply repeat herself—he does this, he does that. I held up a mirror to it. I said, “If you continue to choose him, you can’t complain to me anymore. You know how I feel. I won’t listen. This relationship is your choice.”
She said this “shock treatment” helped her end her relationship once and for all. Caring tough love is a sign of a true friend.
4. They want good things for you.
I felt warning bells one time when I got a promotion and was a little scared to tell my friend Dina. I knew she’d make it about her, and she’d feel bad about herself. The conversation wouldn’t be about high-fiving me, it’d be about why she’s not further ahead. I’d have to reassure her (again).
A real ride-or-die isn’t worried about you outshining them. Because they also know you’re happy for them when life goes right (and, sadly, this is not the case in a lot of friendships). True friends celebrate your wins, help wherever they can, and in moments of doubt, they remind you who the eff you are. And what type of friendship could be better or more supportive than that?
As spider Charlotte talks to her friend for the last time, and he asks what he can do for her, she says, “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.” It’s true—a real ride-or-die is amazing.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!