Fierce friends. May we have them, may we be them, and thank goodness for them! When we think of fierce friends, there is usually a lot of finger snapping and “Oh-no-you-didn’t just [fill in the blank] my friend!” that comes to mind. In the context of friendship, fierce (“intense emotion”) goes hand-in-hand with loyalty (“feeling of strong support”). The differences are so subtle, but so important.
Fierce friends are great. They are the ones who came to sit by you at lunch on the first day of elementary school, stood by you when you fess up to a lie, stood up for you when you’re wronged, and stood with you when you’re trying to right wrongs. But life is long, and so much happens between elementary school and our attempts at adulthood. Somewhere along the way, there was (or will be) a guy or girl that changes you, a job that challenges you, an illness that tests you, financial hardship that stress you, society that upends you. And they will be there.
During the trying times of life, a friend listening to and standing by us can be the difference between surviving and thriving. Someone firmly rooted by our side, with dagger eyes for anyone who dares to come near us in a moment of weakness, or echoing our indignant cries loudly along side us at a time of outrage, can bolster and inspire the very core of our being. The “goods” of this are the tenants of deep and lasting friendships:
- Affirmation: We’re okay. We’re “normal”. We’re not (entirely) crazy. There are things that happen to all of us.
- Support: We’re not alone. We don’t have to be all things to all people. We don’t have to be strong all of the time.
- Bonding: We’re connected through common experiences, or, simply, the willingness of another to empathize and (at least try to) understand.
The Not-So Goods
Bad boy/girlfriends or divorce, job loss, death, kid-raisin’, mean-girl dealin’… We will all experience some of this, in some form, and we all need that tribe that will yell, cry, laugh and endure with us through it. But, what about when we don’t exactly agree with what’s happening? What if our friend is the one who cheated on her spouse? Is always late for work? Is not seeking alcohol/substance abuse help, or taking responsibility?
The “bads” of unwavering loyalty are when our fierceness lacks honesty and boundaries. Otherwise, we risk:
- Self-sacrifice: Giving too much of ourselves and not leaving enough to sustain our own needs or priorities will suck us dry.
- Values misalignment: If we go too much against our own compass, it will eventually catch up with us and implode in resentment.
- Enabling: Too much understanding or agreement can perpetuate a problem and burn you out in the process.
This is where that fierce finger, may need to be pointing our friend in a different direction and could put our loyalty into question. But sometimes boundaries are the truest form of love and loyalty for ourselves and for others. So, when our “intense emotion” and “feeling of strong support” is best expressed by creating boundaries, will they understand? Will we, when it’s done in return? If we are truly fierce friends… Aw HELL yes.
Author, Amy Reeves Robinson, is the Founder of Tribe of Women