"If you wanna find out who's a true friend, screw up or go through a challenging time...then see who sticks around." -Karen Salmansohn
You know whether someone is worth space in your life based on one simple question: are they there for you? That isn't to say they've said I'll be there for you, but rather they've shown that to be true. They've offered themselves up in good and bad times, especially when it was inconvenient for them. They aren't looking for a mere placeholder to fill the emptiness in their lives, but rather are genuinely invested in you as a person.
Even if they had a bunch of homework piling up, even if they're dealing with their own issues, they come over at the middle of the night and let you cry on their shoulder when you can't get the words out. They call you on the phone to check in and tell you they love you. They carve time out of their days, even if it's only for a short while, to connect with you. And if they can't, they tell you how much they care and that they'll get back to you when they can (and they do).
You're irreplaceable to them. There's no sense that each time you see them will be the last time--or that they'll find someone else once you're no longer the most convenient option for them. They aren't afraid to tell you how much they care, how much they love you - you don't have to pull the words out of their mouth, like pulling teeth. The words shouldn't even be necessary because you should feel it nonetheless, it shouldn't even be a question of do you even care about me? do you love me at all? Because you should feel the answer deep in your gut. What good is love if you can't feel it? Or if you don't care to know and love them wholly and completely?
This reminds me of my favorite excerpt from Chobsky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
"Charlie, I told you not to think of me that way nine months ago because of what I'm saying now. Not because of Craig. Not because I didn't think you were great. It's just that I don't want to be somebody's crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don't want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it, too. I want them to be able to do whatever they want around me. And if they do something I don't like, I'll tell them."
Words can be so worthless sometimes when someone tells you I love you, but doesn't show it; I care about you, but you feel like nothing to them. Whether those words are true or not doesn't matter much when you feel so far removed from them.
They have to be present in every sense of the word. When it's convenient when it's not. To offer their emotional self, physical self, all of themselves. This is what it means to be a good friend, a good partner, a good parent, sister, brother, etc. This is what it means to be selfless, and damn, there are so many selfish people masquerading as otherwise. And when selfish people enter your life, you'll think their behavior is on you--it's not--and you deserve so much more than that. You would be surprised as to how many people don't have one selfless person in their life...not even one.