“…the time your friends need you is when they’re wrong, Jean Louise. They don’t need you when they’re right—”

– Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

For decades, one of the books I most appreciated was Harper Lee’s lone novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Darn it if she didn’t take a 55-year hiatus before putting out her next one, Go Set a Watchman.

The quote above is my favorite line from this new book because it not only captures the core message of the story, but it also has proven to be true over the years in my own experiences with friends.

Here’s the deal: The closer I am to another human being, the more unfiltered my actions become. That’s because a bond of trust and expectation has been cultivated and tested over time.

And I have a proven record of being wrong in my thinking and actions on a regular basis. This is when my true friends call me out, using clear, robust language. It may not feel good, but it’s the dose of honesty that keeps me emotionally healthy. A friend of mine calls it “always heading north.”

There are two other Harper Lee quotes about relationships I have come to appreciate over time:

“Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

And, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee tells a compelling story through her child heroine, Scout. In Go Set a Watchman, Scout (Jean Louise) is now a young lady, returning home to find that her close relationships are now more complicated and confusing as she grows up.

It’s a good thing Jean Louise has a wacky but wise uncle to encourage her to continue to love Atticus, even when he’s not the perfect father she created in her mind.

It’s a good thing I’m blessed by close friends who forgive my “wrongs” and continue to show their love.