Open letter to the “strong friend”


Whatever that is. These words are for you, the friend who gets more “you’ll be okay, right?” than “are you okay?”. The friends who find themselves walking over fragments of glass trying to be restorative to their people.  You, who seemingly “has it all together”.

Although I understand where it comes from, I don’t really believe in the label “strong friend” that much. I’ve observed how we choose to define it. We’ve unconsciously degraded it from an adjective to a sort of sorry verb, that we use to shelter our crappy efforts at being (good) friends.

Bite me.

You hear the similarities in a pool of explanations (excuses rather) that people bring forth when the brave, ask why they neglect a certain friend.

“She’ll be strong- I know she is. She’ll get over it” (What if she doesn’t?)

“She knows I’m here” (When last did you not only tell her but SHOW her?)

“He rarely cries.” (How did you make him feel the last time he did?)


So my mind has been playing around with the theory that we may be branding people we tend to neglect as “strong friends”. I’m talking about people we regard as friends. Not people we are see everyday or are even on friendly terms with. There is a huge difference.

I’m talking about the friend that blows our minds because they somehow always know what to say. I’m talking about ALWAYS! The friends who cushions when we’re talking.

And while that can create deeper intimacy between us as friends, it’s pluralistic. It can also create over dependency and dull emotional labor towards the said “strong friend”. We push their needs in a closet of denial and that deludes us. We rarely sit and wonder who is there for them and that’s a damn shame. We disqualify ourselves without even trying to be there.

And I get that we’re not given the same set of thought patterns and strengths. We get busy sometimes. And our love languages aren’t always in sync but can it be that somewhere along the lines of our friendships we’ve branded ourselves “the wounded” and some of our friends as “healers”? That we hide from our responsibility of being decent friends, by gas lighting and protecting?

I wonder how overtaxing that must be. To somehow be a trench where people come to propel their troubles, inhibitions and anxieties deep into your soul but the same people can’t seem to open themselves up to you. Because * rolling eyes * “you’re the strong friend”

I get easily overwhelmed sometimes by the spheres of my life. I spend too much time in some spheres that I sometimes neglect the others. My mother always tells me that life is about balance. I’d like to believe there should be balance in friendships too.  Where everyone is a mirror of what they expect to receive.

Some people say “she is too secretive”. While that may be true, other individuals aren’t uncommunicative, they just don’t see a space created “for them” to be undone.

In some instances, we forget that it’s difficult for us to see our friends’ tears when they are always divulged in ours.

Before you forget this piece I want us to challenge ourselves. To really check up on the people we love. Irrespective of their personalities. To show up emotionally too.


Finally, to the “strong friend,” you can’t be everyone’s savior.  It’s okay not to know, it’s safe to admit when you don’t know. It’s okay if you take time to tend to yourself and your own needs FIRST.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. People’s projections don’t have to be your reality. Let people in. Let your friends get close to you.

End of the article. Think of your friends. Make the necessary changes if need be (I know I need to).

Honor the balance!



Mothepane Lebopo