Here’s how the Cambridge Dictionary defines “support”: to agree with and give encouragement to someone or something because you want him, her, or it to succeed. Have you ever considered how YOU define the word? We all would like to think of ourselves as supportive people, especially where our friends are concerned. But are we truly supporting our friends without qualification?
Whether it be our family structures, level of education or socio-economic status, our needs will contrast from one household to the next. Sometimes, support looks like extending a loving ear, shoulder or hand, even when our friends choose to handle situations dissimilarly from the way we would. That’s often easier said than done.
Strength, Solace and Security
Do we even need to talk about the wild ride that was 2020? I think not. But if you’re like me, you didn’t need a worldwide pandemic to have a full and active life. I’m a single mom of two young children, a TV personality and full time interior designer and entrepreneur. That doesn’t even begin to include my personal life or philanthropic efforts. Needless to say, I’m BUSY. At the helm of a successful business, I quickly learned the power of (and need for) delegation. I simply cannot do it all, all of the time. This is why support from my family, friends and professional team is so key.
I put people in place whom I trust to be capable and competent in their respective fields of expertise to aid in areas where I need it most. It allows me to be a better mom, a better boss and a better friend. When we give our support to our friends, we’re essentially saying to them, “I see you, I love you, and I am here for you.” If our friends are choosing to handle a circumstance in a manner we aren’t accustomed to (albeit responsibly), our job is not to judge. It’s to simply support. Those three “I” statements above? They mean the world to all of us when we need them most.
A Particular Perspective
Because of my particular career trajectory, my lifestyle may not always look like other moms, women or people that some might compare me to. However, that’s not the only reason why my life and choices might stand out as unique. I’m a biracial woman who was transracially adopted and lives in one of the most diverse states in the United States. I spend a great deal of my work life doing media appearances, and I’ve been working since I was a toddler.
All of these factors contribute to the perspective with which I approach life. Your set of factors will vary from mine, and the next person’s from yours. Supporting our friends means remembering that the way we live our lives is largely impacted by our innate and environmental circumstances.
Different Doesn’t mean Detrimental
Fun fact: I don’t cook. It just isn’t my thing. I do, however, enjoy a delicious meal. that said, I have great respect for all the people who are masterful in the kitchen, as well as the love that can be shared through the art of cooking. Designing residential kitchens and commercial ones is one thing; I just don’t cook in them! My family’s diet and health are important to me, so I use meal prep and meal delivery services often. To someone who loves cooking, that may seem odd, but it works for my family, and that’s what matters to me.
I choose to supplement my sons’ traditional learning with alternative methods in order to accommodate their needs and my unorthodox schedule. I have friends who have chosen to adhere to a strict “computer-at-a-desk” learning style. Both are equally fine, and effective. I have had countless conversations with friends and colleagues about traveling with my kids. It’s always funny to watch their mouths drop open when I share with them that I’ve successfully traveled as far as Spain with my (at the time) very young children. So many people say that they wouldn’t dare take a child that far or to a location most associate with relaxation and fun. Ibiza is one of my favorite locales in the world, and I love that my boys have an opportunity to have those experiences alongside their mother.
Again, my choices might differ from yours, but different doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Supporting our friends means leaving the judgment and often the unsolicited advice at the door. We’re all making decisions that will make our lives better, and isn’t that the goal after all?
Understanding is an Understatement
Now that we’ve acknowledged that we often unintentionally pass judgment on those who live and choose differently than we do, how do we change that in order to be a true support? First, we need to examine our own biases. So much of what we find and believe to be “acceptable” is based on how we grew up. I was taught about money from a young age. My parents instilled in me the value of it, the requirement to work hard for it, and the responsibility of handling it wisely. As a result, I work hard, and sometimes I treat myself and my family to simple luxuries that may feel grand to someone who isn’t familiar with my backstory.
If you have a connection to your faith that governs what roles look like in a marriage, someone more liberal might have values that completely clash with yours. Our friends are still friends even if they don’t react to situations the same as we do. Our choices don’t make us better or worse, they make us…authentic. That shouldn’t be shunned. It should be celebrated.
People say that children don’t come into the world with an instruction manual. Well, life doesn’t give us one for adult affairs either. We need our friends. We need their support and love now more than ever before. When the going gets tough, I might choose to hunker down, and you might choose to flee. However, we both want the same thing: comfort, safety, compassion and understanding. Unconditional love means supporting our friends whether we can empathize with exactly what they’re enduring or not. I’m hoping we can all do that from a place of tenderness and grace as we tackle life’s ups and downs.
Join me, won’t you?