A very wise person recently suggested to me (not in so many words) that we serve our friends best by being ourselves.
We are important to our friends because of who we are -- not what we do or what we say. They are drawn to us because they enjoy the kinds of things that we naturally do and say when being ourselves.
They need us -- to the extent that they do need us -- because something about the kind of people we are calls out to them.
In good times, this principle requires no conscious acknowledgment or thought on our part. We do as we do, our friends do as they do, and through that wonderful synergy and coincidence, all of our bright lives are made brighter.
But there is a challenge to this simple truth that occurs when things are not so smooth. When a friend is hurting, when a friend could clearly use some comfort or aid, we begin to search for the right thing to do to help. This is not necessarily bad, especially if we are the kind of person who ordinarily spends a lot of time thinking about the right things to do.
However ... if we pressure ourselves, if we insist to ourselves that it is SO important to find the right thing that's needed to help, two insidious things can begin to occur. First, the pressure may cause us to drift from that state of simply being ourselves -- of behaving in the way that caused us to be important to our friends in the first place. Second, our brains may play a little trick on us, perform a little slip that takes us from thinking, "It is SO important to me to help my friend," into thinking, "I need to help my friend because I know how important I am to them."
In pressuring ourselves, we distort ourselves. In focusing too much on the importance of helping, we inflate our own sense of importance. Soon, despite having started from the best of intentions, we have moved into a mode of behavior unlike our ordinary one, a mode which may or may not bear any resemblance to the behavior that drew our friends to us in the first place.
The lesson is, be there for your friends -- but be there by being yourself. Remember that you can't fix your friends, just as they can't fix you. But if you brighten their world by remaining true to the person they find so entertaining or engaging, then you may help them find the support they need to fix themselves.
Don't worry about how important your help might or might not be. Just be as you are, and if you're the right kind of person to start with, your friends will find all the help they need in you, on their own, and naturally.
Thank you, goddess of love, for humbling experiences, and for friends who stick with you even if you go off the rails sometimes.