We need to adopt an approach to establishing and maintaining constructive service in friendship groups – how we go about serving our friends and acquaintances through the example we set and the positive and active leadership we provide in the right context.
Our friends represent a significant portion of our support network. They are the people who we can turn to in our darkest moments - we lean on their shoulder to stop us from falling. They fill our days with joy, laughter and memories. They fill our lives with kindness, respect and love. Our service towards them is an essential component of how we lead. Who we are as people is heavily determined by how we treat those closest to us. Service in our friendship groups is a fundamental part of this.
We might begin by asking ourselves whether or not we think our friends could count on us to offer the support, and to have genuine, unconditional care for their safety and wellbeing. The answer to this question can largely be found in the history of our behaviour. Have we created an environment of respect through our treatment of them? Have we sponsored a unique space of trust through being a good listener? Have we made them feel loved through our actions? Our friends should feel these things about us. These are the prerequisites for them knowing that we are dependable, that they can trust us and that, when they need someone, they can call on us.
"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This support network shouldn’t be exclusive. We should be grateful for spaces in which we feel comfortable and loved. We should empathise with those who don’t have these. We need to be prepared to be selfless in the welcome we extend to others. We need to invite new people to share in our spaces and be kind and welcoming when we do. We never know the impact that simple kindnesses can have on someone, be it immediately or in the long term. Our service doesn’t stop at those who we believe serve us – good leadership goes beyond self-interest.
Many of our relationships take place online. The grey space that the internet can provide needs its own guidelines. We need to be aware that online is not in-person and that virtual relationships have a particular propensity towards poor behaviour. When we are not face-to-face with our peers, its easy to forget that our behaviour has consequences. The anonymity and impersonality of the internet can both cloud how we truly feel and also encourage us to show our worst side. It's easy to hide when we are hurt and it is easier to hide behind our screens when we seek to hurt others. We need to be kind, we need to be cautious, and we need to reserve intimacy of any type for those with whom we share a physical space. Part of our service to our friends involves the way we model honourable behaviours that put our values into action online and how we seek to actively influence the culture of our friends to do the right thing.
We also need to know when to be the friend who says no. We need to be the one who is prepared to make a stand for doing the right thing, the one who gives wise but unpopular counsel at a time when courage is required. It's easy to go with the flow. It's much harder to take responsibility for yourself and for others, especially when doing so can place relationship at risk. True friends support and encourage, inspire and challenge, nurture and protect. They are recognised for what they bring of value to the relationship. Their qualities should not go unnoticed. If these qualities are not recognised, that does not make their exercise any less important.
We also serve our friends in the ways we spend time with them. Sometimes, this is just hanging out and relaxing with no particular purpose in mind. Sometimes, there's more structure to it. Sharing projects and co-curricular activities with our friends is an effective way to build our relationships and provide shared experiences that underline and bring detail our friendships. Sharing the experience of helping or contributing to the lives of others alongside your friends is also an important part of our service. Encouraging our friends to support and give back to the community is one of the responsibilities we have as a leader in our friendship groups. As we hope to go on a journey to seek purpose through service, we should encourage those closest to us to join us.
We can contemplate our commitment to Service in Friendship Groups by considering the following questions: