Last night I had the opportunity to attend an early screening of the new movie Girls Trip, which was unexpectedly phenomenal (way to go Will Packer Productions). It was like, Sex and the City meets The Best Man meets The Hangover - seriously, a huge dose of motion picture chocolate covered goodness. It made me proud to be a woman, and a BLACK woman at that! After the film, the one and only Miss Diddy hosted a talk back with the producers and cast. During the session, she said something that really affected me: Don’t forget to check on your strong friend.
Many of us have that one friend we call when our lives are falling apart. He or she usually seems to have it all together ― a great job, a great living situation and a great group of friends. They are emotionally intelligent, fiscally responsible, exceptionally wise, and patient enough to listen to all of your problems. They are your rock, your accountability partner and your comforter. And if you don’t have a friend like this, chances are it’s because you are the strong friend.
In Girls Trip, Ryan (played by the beautiful Regina Hall) is the strong friend. She is a wildly successful young entrepreneur who has it all. I saw a lot of myself in Ryan. As a 28-year-old entertainment attorney, author, blogger and (most recently) producer, I’m often the one my friends call on in their times of need. I pray with my friends when they feel far from God, I wipe their tears when they have relationship problems, I encourage them when they feel less than enough, I write blogs and articles encouraging them not to give up on their dreams, I edit their text messages before they hit send, I review resumes, I proofread personal statements and cover letters, and I bring them job and networking opportunities. And for some, if I’m not available to deal with the issue of the day, I’m a “bad friend.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends! Like, I would give my life to protect them. But some days, I don’t want to be the strong friend. Sometimes I need someone to tell me, “You are strong. You are powerful. You are beautiful.” Sometimes I need someone to tell me, “God hears you.” Sometimes I need someone to wipe my tears when I’m having relationship problems. Sometimes, I don’t want to give life advice, I want to sulk. I want to be the crazy friend who needs someone to edit my text messages before I emotionally send them off. I want to complain about my career. I want permission to be weak.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, though for some reason we obsess as a society over seemingly perfect situations, “having it all” is a myth. Social media is full of #relationshipgoals, #bodygoals, #friendgoals and #lifegoals. But conflict and imperfection are inevitable parts of the human experience. I mean come on, I love Steph and Ayesha Curry as much as the next person, but I’m sure they have problems just like the rest of us! And when our seemingly perfect idols fall from grace (Can I get a Beyoncé and Jay-z for $400, Alex?), we’re crushed! We freak out. We text our friends like, “Oh my gosh, there’s no hope for any of us if Beyoncé, Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie have issues with their men!”
When is the last time you checked on your strong friend? Your parents? Your mentor? Your pastor? Your life coach? Your professor? The people in your life fill two distinct roles ― fruit pickers and fertilizers. Fruit pickers require you to give of yourself. Fertilizers renew your spirits. In a healthy friendship or relationship, it’s normal for people to fill both roles. But sometimes, we become so comfortable in the roles we play with the people closest to us, we forget to occasionally switch roles.
And to my fellow “strong friends” ― it’s okay to admit areas of vulnerability and weakness! Give your friends the opportunity to pour into you the same way you pour into others. And if you don’t feel like you have friends who are capable of pouring into you, it’s time for you to re-evaluate your circle of friends. The truth is, you can be strong and weak at the same time. There’s beauty in our brokenness. Allow your closest friends to see the real you - the sleepy you, the insecure you, the depressed you, the lonely you - and trust them to love you anyway! Because that’s what friends are for, right?