Monday, March 5, 2012

Reflections on Friendship

Friendship is something that is as unique as the people who engage in it; we all have wants and needs, limits and boundaries, expectations and efforts that are varied from the other people we know. Even when we find someone who seems to be exactly like we are, we find that there are subtle differences, whether in personal lives or our personalities. Everyone is different.

Yet something drives us all to seek companionship of some kind in life, and usually our most comfortable area of forming relationships is friendship. What is it about friendship that drives us all to seek to find a home in it?

Maybe it's the companionship. It's nice to know that someone else cares about you, even if you need your space, even if you aren't interested in having someone in your everyday life, even if you like to keep people at arm's length... We all like the sense of belonging somewhere, or at least being kept in the heart of someone who truly knows us and appreciates us regardless of our faults. We like to know that there is someone who would be there in a pinch, even if we never intend on using them to fulfill that need.

But in our heart of hearts, we also like to give. We like to be there for someone, and to know that we are trusted and valued. We like it when people confide in us and share their feelings with us, because it shows us that we have accomplished something with this person. It warms our hearts to listen and give, because we know we are able to make a difference. It boosts our sense of self-worth to be able to be a friend worth having. This is partly why it hurts so much when people don't take us up on our offer of friendship; we take it personally, wonder what we did or did not do. We sometimes allow ourselves to forget that it is not always an insult to not be a good match.

Friendship is something that we seem to be born seeking. As children we enjoy the hours spent with playmates and then classmates, relishing in our shared joys and helping one another with bumps, bruises, and hurt feelings. And how heartwarming is it to see a small child comfort a friend in need? Some of us even determine how successful we are as parents or mentors based on how children in our care respond to others when the time comes to be sensitive, loving, and caring. It can be a great source of pride to raise someone who is considered a good friend. We find a certain level of comfort in knowing that we fostered this trait in others.

But why? Perhaps because it is so difficult to find. There is an old quote that true friends are hard to come by, and it's true. We have to ask ourselves often if someone is worthy of our time, attention, and affection. It is no small feat to be a friend, or to have a friend. We test the waters, we take with us baggage from past experiences of being burned in friendships, and we live and learn.

How often do we evaluate the type of friend that we are? At first blush we might all say that we are a good friend, but we should always look to ourselves when we think of friendships. As with all relationships, friendship is a two way street. We must always be sure that we are being the kind of friend we would want in others- kind, loving, caring, honest, helpful, attentive, considerate... Like anything else in life, we won't always get it right. We won't always be a good person, or think of someone else, or do the right thing. It is up to us to apologize and try to make it right, and if we can't make it right... we should still apologize. We won't always be forgiven, but that, too, is life.

In the end, friendship counts, and it counts for a lot. If we do it right, it enriches our lives and makes us better people. We can take pride in being a good friend who helps guide others, provides loving support, and remains a positive influence. We can enjoy the fruits of our labors by enjoying friends who add to our lives in these ways as well. The kind of friend we expect to find should always be the kind of friend we strive to be. And instead of counting the number of friends we have, we should rejoice in the strength of the friendships that do take off while in our tender care. Friendship is something too precious to take for granted, or to squander.

What do you need to work on in your friendships? And what do you appreciate about them?

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