A girl I was once friends with jumped out of my parked car and screamed after me, "Friendships aren't supposed to be difficult!" before slamming the door and running up the stairs to her apartment. She was wrong to be angry at me for showing passionate concern that she was drinking alone every night of the week and skipping class, and she was wrong about friendships. We’d been friends for months and had grown, I thought, very close. In an instantaneous scream and slam, she went static silent and although I haven't forgotten her, she’s moved on to a group of people who encourage her actions wholeheartedly.
Anyone who claims that friendships should be "easy," is out of touch. The friendships that we view as simple and easy often are disguised "yes men." Yes Men: the people who are convenient to have around when you need an ego boost. They're around when you need a momentary reminder that your self-destructive plan will run smoothly and work in your favor, no matter how convoluted it is. They're around when you need a fleeting pat on the back, or someone to constantly spew venomous gossip to. It's nice to have these people, and every interaction has some sort of benefit. But we must understand that these connections are transitory. These people will leave us when there is nothing left to mine; you will leave them when you subconsciously understand that they have nothing left to offer you.
The friendships that stick with us are those where we aren't afraid of losing someone after one fight, because after the dust clears they'll still be there to hold your hand. I have a friend who calls me out every time I make a poor decision I know will intentionally hurt myself. He’s never malicious or venomous. It’s simply coming from a place of concern. I have friends who make me want to pull my hair out during intellectual debates, religious conversations, or political commentaries. Our differences are so drastic an outsider may wonder how we get along at all, but here is where I thrive. The friendships where things aren't always agreeable are the ones that expand your mind. The friendships in which someone can say, I love you so much but I think you're wrong, are the ones that spark the most change in us. How can someone who claims they adore you sit back and watch you self-destruct? How can you watch someone wither away right in front of your eyes? Challenging friendships are the ones that pull us back from the dark to remind us that we're not always the heroes in our own narratives.
We shy away from fights between friends because it’s easier to keep the peace than it is to speak the honest truth. We all have the power to choose whom we spend our time with. We can choose to slice out the toxic people from our lives. We can slowly gather around us a strong group of fellow-minded lovelies who every day challenge us to see the world in a way other than our own.
Friendships should challenge us just as much as romantic relationships. There is something about friendships that run just as deep, sometimes even deeper than love. There is a shared affection and emotional vulnerability where each person is unafraid to highlight all the parts of someone else that others leave hidden, urging them to challenge their thinking. Choose the friends who scream back, and hug you tighter, and cry when you cry just because they see you're sad.
—Follow Shawn Binder on Twitter: @ShawnBinder