Do you have a friend who cares enough about you to call you out on your bull? Are you enough of a friend to forgive them for doing it? When you demand silence from your friends and they comply, you block yourself from true friendship. If you don’t have a friend who knows enough about you, the real, raw, flawed you, that they can cut you to the heart with a pointed rebuke when you need a wake up call, then you’re missing out on the greatest of human experiences, a hardcore friendship.
Everyone knows that the key to a meaningful relationship is sharing honest communication, whether it be between family, friends, or lovers. But knowing it and doing it are two different things. The act of sharing honest feelings, fears, and doubts is meant to bring two people closer together, not to be used as ammunitition to judge or condemn someone who took a leap of faith and trusted you with their secrets, or trusted you to not attack them for trying to help you face your own. When your friends can’t speak honestly to you without fear of being cut out of your life if you don’t like what you hear, you keep them in a box of friendly fun acquaintances, not true friends. It’s not a question of whether or not they care about you, it’s whether or not you’re willing to risk the pain that comes from a friend trying to tell you what you don’t want, but need, to hear.
It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults. – Henry Ward Beecher
No one can deceive you so often or so completely as yourself. A valuable friend is one who is willing to put him- or herself between you and your illusions. That’s hardcore friendship. They jump in to slay the emotional and spiritual dragons that you try to hide from by calling you out when you drop the ball, when what you say isn’t matching up with what you do, when you tell yourself you’re happy and in control, but your friend sees the truth in your eyes, your face, the slump of your shoulders, the hollowness of your words.
True friends stab you in the front. – Oscar Wilde
Hard-core friendship is when your friend can hurt you more than anyone else, because they can say to you what you’re too afraid to say to yourself. They have invested in getting to know you, the 100% good and bad of you, strong and weak of you, smart and dumb of you, know the you that you are and the you that you aspire to be. They accept who you are, but won’t let you betray the who you want to be. They’ll hold you accountable to what you refuse to admit. Because they know where you hurt and why, they can force you to face that pain, and by doing so, help free you from it. That is, if you don’t kill the messenger, because you don’t like the message.
I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. – Plutarch
Hardcore friendship is extreme friendship, and, much like extreme sports or extreme adventures, it comes with very real dangers and risk of injury. A friend who recognizes that you’re lost in a fog of fear and denial takes a huge risk in trying to clear the air and make you see what you’re trying so hard not to see. Their efforts to help you may come across as reckless or clumsy. You may get defensive, even angry, lash out at them, or worst of all, turn your back on them completely. It is at this moment that your faith in their friendship for you is tested, as they test their faith in your friendship for them by risking your rejection.
You can’t gain a deep, loyal, genuine friendship by avoiding pain. Do you have what it takes to be a hardcore friend? Do you have a friend who knows you, really knows you, so completely that they know the secrets, the demons, the fears that haunt you? If yes, can you forgive them for it? Can you sort out the pain and not project it onto the friend who only wants to help you overcome it?