What does it mean to truly care about someone? I’ve been struggling with this for a while and here’s where I’ve arrived: real care means being there when no-one else is and it means giving someone the feedback they need to grow.
The first one is easier. Being there for a friend when they hit rock bottom. We become the safety in the storm. It can be draining but it is also rewarding to know that we are truly helping someone. And when we have been there ourselves we know the deep solace it brings to have someone there with us, telling us we aren’t alone and aren’t crazy.
But being there isn’t as easy as giving a friend or colleague the feedback they need to grow and see themselves, and the world, in a new, transformative way. That kind of care is at another level and I’ve come to think of it as “next level” caring. When we get out of our comfort zone to help someone we care about become the person they are meant to be.
We all need honest feedback to grow. It’s a critical nutrient. It’s like sunlight. But we rarely get it. And this essentially starves our emotional and spiritual selves. Which leads to an internal atrophying. Just like eating sugar when we need protein, we ingest our own beliefs and fears which alienate us from a larger reality and limit our potential. Although we can break through with learning and reflection there is nothing as effective as having someone we know and trust tell us the truth. One honest conversation can do more than a year of meditation. “You only talk about yourself, why don’t you ask me about my life?”, “Don’t you see that you are an artist? Stop fighting it”, "You are being manipulative, stop it." There is an authority that comes from a trusted external source which can uniquely disrupt our internal narrative. If you want to change your life, change your internal narrative. That may mean you also need to change your friends.
Next level caring means valuing the person, the friend, even more than the friendship.
I want to be that kind of friend and I want to have that kind of friend. I feel blessed to have many people in my life that can be that kind of friend to me, even when I don’t “want” it. A friend that can tell me their truth about my life. Unvarnished, real feedback and insights. I want to give and receive next level care.