How do we know who our real friends are?

We don’t need to.

This is probably not the smartest thing to write about publicly, but it’s something that greatly bothered me today as I attended my friend’s funeral. I wasn’t the closest to him, but during the short time I knew him when I was in college, he patiently taught me professional web development and shared a love of video games which was rare those days. He was so hard-working that he worked full-time through college to not rely on his parents yet still completed it in four years to maintain a full-scholarship. He devoted his life to his job all that time until his tragic passing. He was hardly older than me.

Today as I knelt in front of his body I felt dizzy and nearly passed out, but luckily I didn’t because who am I to cause a scene in front of his grieving family? I hadn’t seen him for more than a year because I let my personal struggles hinder me from staying in contact with him. He also removed me from Skype and Steam once I wasn’t an active part of his life anymore, a year ago when I went back to school. But I never tried to reach out to him. I deeply regret it because if it had been now, I would have tried to talk to him about why he thought I wasn’t his friend anymore just because we no longer saw each other all the time.

I also think my friend deserved a better funeral service. There was a pastor who read generic Bible verses about how he won’t leave us as long as we cherish our memories, and that God doesn’t want the family to grieve too much. Then he also READ A PRAYER for the family, which is just so wrong. Prayer is supposed to be a heartfelt conversation with God, not some script to be used as a facade. My friend’s family was not religious, but even so an empathetic prayer to comfort them should have been a given.

Then there were the welcome cards. On it, it listed his name, date of birth, and date of death, then had one little quote. “It is tough times like these that we know who our real friends are.”

That line is meant to be comforting, but instead it achieves the opposite affect long term. Because does it take death to know who our real friends are? That’s just so heartbreaking. Why do we have to live by dividing people into Real Friend verses Just A Friend? And how do we divide it? By caring less about Just A Friend than Real Friend? By spending less time with Just A Friend than Real Friend? By having more expectations from Real friend than from Just A Friend? By expecting Real Friend to come to a funeral and Just A Friend to flake?

What if we are meant to have close relationships with all people? Humans are social creatures who desire comfort and security. It does not mean we actually have to be close to everyone since people will differ when it comes to how many friends each prefers, and it also does not mean we can’t be closer to some than others. But it does mean thinking of everyone as an equal. Equally worthy of receiving the same love. It’s more important to be the real friend than sort real friends out of friends. I used to wonder why some of my friends would put so much effort into dealing with my struggles especially since many of them hardly knew me, but now I understand exactly why.

That’s the message I want to share when I become a missionary. Being a missionary likely means I won’t be in many of my friends’ lives in the future, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t my real friends. It doesn’t mean I will stop talking to them because they can’t physically be there for me and vice versa. It doesn’t mean I won’t try my best to make it to momentous occasions in their lives. Or invite them to mine.

To my friend who passed away, I’m sorry I didn’t learn this sooner. But I pray that you rest in peace.

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8 Comments to "How do we know who our real friends are?"

Sarah wrote on 27th February 2016 at 3:03 AM

That quote on the welcome card seems like a really unusual thing to have at a funeral. If it were my funeral (although I don’t particularly care to have one) I would want something uplifting or something relevant to what type of person I was when I was alive, not something about the strength of friendships (unless of course that was something relevant/important to me). Based on your entire post, it just feels quite passive aggressive.. maybe I’m reading too much into it.
I’m sorry you weren’t able to talk to him sooner and I understand what you mean by people assuming you don’t want to be their friend unless you’re actively in their lives all the time. I wish more people understood that just because you’re not there all the time, doesn’t mean you still don’t care about them and wouldn’t be there for them when they needed help.


Georgie wrote on 28th February 2016 at 6:16 AM

To be honest I found that quote on the card to be quite offensive… It doesn’t seem to give any kind of thought to the fact that your friend passed. I feel like it was a bit inconsiderate, as if it was alluding to the fact that anyone who turned up to the funeral was a ‘real friend’.

I think a lot of us spend too much time thinking about who our real friends are and contemplating why we don’t have as many as we should. The most important thing is to be a good friend to everyone we can. It’s sad because even though we can be the nicest people we can to others, people can still treat us terribly. I have had people I know treat me badly and made me question who my real friends were. I have had people tell me I am too nice for my own good and that is why people use me. What I hope is that I have made an impression to people by being that good person, because giving is better than receiving.

I think naturally when things like this happen we all regret it and wish we had kept in touch, especially when it happens to someone we didn’t talk to very much. You may be interested in reading about Joyce Vincent and the movie (documentary) about her, Dreams of a Life. Joyce was found dead in her apartment three years after she had passed away, and no one had even known. Bills kept being paid with automatic payments from her bank account and the television was on the entire time. There was not much about her in the news but a movie director tried to find out about Joyce’s family and friends to make a movie about her, not wanting her to be forgotten the way she was. I have not seen the movie, but it turns out her life was more interesting than anyone had expected, and people who knew her featured in the movie and talked about her. They all said they were sad that she was gone but there was a bit of criticism as to how frustrating the movie was because it gave no real ‘answers’ to Joyce’s death (they believed it was natural causes) or how troubled she might have been (she was working in a place for domestic abuse victims). Many people questioned how Joyce’s death could have gone unnoticed if these people were her ‘friends’. Even though you lost touch, you’re a good friend to have been there for your friend at his funeral.


cantaloupe wrote on 29th February 2016 at 11:42 AM

So sorry to hear about your friend.

I think that’s a noble goal, to find all people worthy of the same amount of love. There are friends with whom I’ve lost contact with, but if they were to spontaneously send me a “thinking of you!” message, it would be just as joyous as one from friends that I talk to more often. And that’s something I should learn too. Sometimes I shy away from contacting people about seemingly random things in the fear of being well, random. But in truth, our friendships might be different but they still existed and they still exist, on some level, that could still be stirred. And if stirred with love, surely they would be received well.


Chantelle wrote on 29th February 2016 at 6:24 PM

I think the quote about friends is poorly written, but I didn’t interpret it negatively. I read it as meaning tough times make us really thankful for our friends because they lift us up, support us and surround us with their love. When things are going well, friends can’t really lift us up or make that big of a difference in terms of improvement because we’re already fine, but when they’re bad, they can help substantially. I find it hard to imagine someone purposely writing a passive aggressive/negative message on something given out a funeral.

I’m really random about contacting some of my friends (as they are with me). I don’t see it as us not being friends, but just as everyone being busy. It doesn’t matter if months or a year (or even two) go by. I still care about them.

In terms of “real” friends versus other friends, I think it’s a nonsensical distinction to make and that the adjective should have been stricken from the quote. But some people are better at empathy than others. I’m not the easiest to become close to, so I understand when people can’t empathize with me. But I don’t divide them into categories of real vs. fake, even though I do have friends who understand me (and that I become close with) and then friends who can’t. That’s just life.


Cat wrote on 29th February 2016 at 11:03 PM

I’m so sorry about your friend 🙁 I don’t think you have to see someone all the time to view them as a real friend. Everyone’s lives are different and everyone shows their friendship in different ways. I like how you put it as thinking of everyone as an equal. I think the term “real friend” is kind of weird anyway. If someone isn’t a “real” friend, then are they a friend at all? Even you’re not close to someone, I feel like you can still consider them a real friend if they genuinely care about you.


Liz wrote on 1st March 2016 at 3:49 AM

That quote irks me, because what are the “times like these”? Going to a funeral is a personal decision, and I don’t feel like someone should be treated like less because of it…or that who all shows up and doesn’t show up should be the determining factor in who truly cared about a person. It feels so…I mean, I think that’s called ‘passive aggressiveness’? I don’t know. I struggle to understand that, to be honest. But it reminds me a lot of things I’ve seen in people’s copy lately: “This isn’t for you if you couldn’t care less for your readers.” It takes one thing, then just blows it up into another. I don’t know…I just don’t like that way of thinking.

I’ve met a lot of people who feel as though time split between them means you’re not their friend anymore, and I’ve been on the receiving end of it, too. It really sucks, because I’m horrible at time and all that jazz. I don’t always have a [realistic] sense of time; my brain just works that way.

I think that’s a good message to pass on to other people, honestly. Friendship comes in so many shapes and forms; it extends beyond in-person hangouts. <3


Ongaku wrote on 3rd March 2016 at 11:17 AM

First things first, I’m very sorry for your loss.

I agree with you on this topic. I really dislike when people categorizes who is your true friend and who is not. To me, each friend is equal. Even if I may not see them as much or do as much with them, they are still important. However, I understand life gets in the way and things change so just because we went our different ways does not mean we aren’t still friends. I’m like this with several people. I don’t delete them unless they outright do something that shows they don’t think of me as a friend anymore. 🙂


Becca wrote on 17th March 2016 at 4:14 PM

I think that is a very odd quote to include on the welcome card. It’s almost offensive to everyone in his life that wasn’t at the funeral or as an active part of his life. It’s a shame that he wasn’t given a proper funeral with the generic Bible verses and scripted prayer.

It has always bothered me, the comparison between “real friends” and everyone else. Friends come and go as people grow up and change in different ways, choose to go down different paths. But I don’t view my old friends who I don’t keep in contact with anymore as any less important. They had an impact on my life. I’ve always viewed it as make as positive of an impact as you can while you can cherish each other’s friendship, and if life takes you in different directions, you’ll always carry that with you. I think we spend too much time worrying about who is really a true friend and who isn’t, when that shouldn’t be the focus at all. These people are in your life, so cherish that and be the best friend that you can be to that person.


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