By Cameron Chang

“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

1. They see – and show us – the places where we are blind to ourselves.

We may claim to know ourselves, we may even consider ourselves to be a self aware being, but the truth is that we all have places in ourselves that we can’t see—it’s a part of being human. If we have a little bit of humility, we’ll value the necessity of having a friend that is not afraid to honestly tell us when they think we’re going in the wrong direction. Often a true friend knows us better than we know ourselves. They know us beyond the masks that we wear and the roles that we play. Thus they are able to see us from an objective standpoint from which they can hold up a proverbial mirror to us with great compassion so that we can see ourselves clearly.

2. We can embrace authenticity with them.

Many of us have friendships that are built up around certain patterns of being and acting that aren’t totally authentic and that’s completely fine. These friendships have their place. However, with a true friend, we can afford to completely let go of our self-images, roles and masks. We can be real. Whether we’re talking about the deepest possible subject or just talking utter nonsense, the feeling is the same—we’re at home. We can afford to speak what’s truly on our mind, not just what is socially acceptable. We may feel like a huge burden is lifted off of our shoulders when we are with that friend because we’re no longer carrying the excessive baggage of our ego.

3. They offer invaluable, honest feedback, without the fear filter.

In this modern age of fragile egos and clever defense mechanisms, we’re more likely to get expect a trophy rather than a straightforward, honest assessment of our character. A true friend will call us on our bullshit. Period. He or she is willing to cut to our core and tell us what he or she really sees, even if that means bruising our ego. The truth may hurt, but it’s the truth that ultimately sets us free. We’re human, we all want to be told nice things about ourselves, but how often do we actually mature and thrive because someone told us consistently how great we are? If we only have people around us telling us what we want to hear, then we can’t grow. Growth happens when we are able to encounter all aspects of ourselves—the ugly and the beautiful. Having a friend that has the courage to point out, in a loving way, what we can’t see—our weaknesses and flaws—makes us stronger and wiser.

4. They want the best for us, because they see us as being on their team.

We may have a lot of friends and they may all mean well, but having a friend that is truly invested in our personal, professional and spiritual growth is a rare gift. Rather than being preoccupied by only the trivia of social graces, this friend really wants to see us grow. They are moved by unconditional love, which means they are not afraid to confront us when we’re acting like an idiot, and they don’t mind if we get upset and leave them, because he or she loves us enough to be completely honest with us. A true friend is a servant of our soul.

5. Their love and companionship is for life. 

Some friends are sprinters in our life; they seem to be going strong with us for a stretch, but then fizzle out. A true friend, on the other hand, is a marathon runner. We may not always have constant contact with them, but the bond we share is infinite. We might not see them for 10 years, but the heart of the friendship will remained unchanged. Such friendships are an extraordinarily gift, learn to appreciate them while they last.

Image: Nick Bulanov

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