I treat my friends like family. In fact, the moment I allow someone into my circle I make it my priority to protect them, support them, and uplift them. The closer I am, the larger the space is that that person holds in my heart. I’ve never been a fighter, but I will “square-up” for my friends and most definitely my family.

As a part of being a good friend, I often tend to make it a point to offer honest feedback as I would expect for them to do the same for me. Sometimes the human part of me, however, can be overly concerned and might offer my opinionated thoughts unsolicited. They never come with ill intent or to hurt anyone, but I’ve found that even those opinions that come from a good place have the potential to hurt the ones we love the most.

I learned that the hard way one day.

Every good friendship should offer a solid dynamic between two individuals that hopefully allows them to confide in one another, vent, or just listen when needed. I personally find myself venting the most when I am trying to understand something or gain clarity on a situation that I am experiencing. Dating, family, work, or school, my closest gal pals have listened and been there during it all. From deaths to promotions, they have witnessed my highest of highs and lowest of lows.

This last year presented me with an opportunity for growth when it came to being a good friend. It started with someone that I love sharing with me information about her relationship. As I listened over a period of time I found myself enraged knowing that what my friend was experiencing was not right. In fact, instead of listening, I began to forcefully push my opinion off on her and shamefully I’ll admit that I judged her on the decisions she had made when it came to her relationship.

It wasn’t to hurt her, but was meant for her to understand my concern about the situation as a whole. But it did come off offensive, as I had overstepped my boundaries as a friend. Instead of listening, I was telling her what to do with her life. I wasn’t considering her feelings or how she would feel from the things that I was saying to her. I was flat out wrong.

It wasn’t until I experienced a situation that resulted in me venting to my sister. She listened and offered feedback from her experiences. She never condemned any of my decisions, nor made me feel any less of myself for what I accepted.

She also said something to me that stuck and forced me to reflect on how I’ve operated within my friendships.

“Be careful when venting about relationships to family and friends. They aren’t as forgiving of your significant other as you are.”

As a friend, I want to protect her from people that I think are doing her wrong. In fact, I want to keep them far away so that they can’t hurt her. My cut-off game is strong you feel me! You can be “bro” one minute, and “ole’ boy” the next if you come at my friends/family the wrong way.

But the way life goes, we can’t control who our friends and family choose to love. We also can’t control what they are willing to accept or not accept from their significant others.

But what we CAN do is love them. We CAN be there for them. We CAN catch them if they just so happen to fall. We can be an active listener.

It’s okay to share your concern with the people you love, but when doing so it benefits us to use a level of discernment and wisdom before candidly speaking on the situations of others.

In all things, do (and say) it with LOVE.