I hang up on from a phone call with a very good friend and I feel full of gratitude that she is well and happy, that I am well and happy, and that we are in each other’s lives. Over the past twenty years we have been through many changes but our friendship has always been there. We have supported each other through good and not so good times. There have been laughs and tears and lots of shared history. My life is richer because of my friend.
Good friends are really important and they must be nurtured in order to thrive. When I was a girl, switching “best friends” whenever we got a new hobby was common. So was dropping our girlfriends when we got a new boyfriend and I can remember how that could hurt.
Growing up means treating friends as though they are appreciated. Our good, long lasting friendships are precious. If we are not careful, we forget to tell them how much they mean to us. We should also understand that there are times when we need to be there for a good friend when they are in need, even if it is inconvenient. Friendship is definitely reciprocal if it is to work over a long time.
Treasuring a good friend is a lot different from building a network for our business or social ambitions. It is also different from loving our family because they were born to be our connections. Making friends involves choices and choosing good friends is a consequence of knowing who we are. There are plenty of people on Facebook and they may be listed as friends but it takes time and common experiences to develop a real friendship.
Not all friends from the past need to be carried into your world of today. It is wonderful to keep your friends from high school or college but if you want a healthy balance you will have to develop some new ones along the way. Especially as we age, people’s lives and situations, as well as interests, change. Some move away, some change, some die, some simply take a different path in life. So if you only stick with your old friends, you can end up with a very narrow world as time marches on.
It seems to me that we should try to cultivate new friends and, at the same time, treasure the old ones. As always, balance is the key to intelligent living. No one can have an unlimited number of close friends but beware the person who insists that he or she must be your only friend. “Best friends” works better in 7th grade than in adulthood.
One of the best ways to meet friends is to find a people you enjoy who have similar interests. These days, most of my friends are people I’ve met in my spiritual activities; once they nearly all came from my 12 Step program. Before that, most of them came from my writing activities. I still have a couple of friends from every one of those previous interests because they are a part of me and my history. Most of all, these treasured old friends have qualities that resonate in wonderful ways.
What kind of people make the best friends? I love the ones who are always there for you. They can be there in times of need and they are wonderful. On the other hand, the ones who make me laugh are fabulous. I also love the ones who are interested and excited about new ideas and activities. And then there are my deep thinker friends and my deep believer friends. It varies from day to day so I guess they are all my best friends.
What old friend can I contact today?
What new person can I get to know better and maybe make a friend?
Do I nurture my current friendships?
A good friend has been away for three weeks and I was very happy to talk with her this morning. She is a treasure who has been in my life for at least twenty years. A far-away friend is visiting next week; she is a treasure I have known even longer. I consider all my friends – new and longer – true treasures.
I’m not the only one who thinks her friends are treasures. Louisa Mae Alcott said, “A faithful friend is a strong defense; And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.” I have no idea what Louisa Mae was defending herself against with her friendships but I do know how my friends enhance my life in many ways.
Good friends bring me joy. When I am connected at a heart level, I can actually feel joy for their blessings and achievements in life. I can participate in my friend’s delight because her daughter is gets into a good college. Good friends enable me to embrace a wider world.
They also make me stretch and grow. I can be thrilled when my friend’s book makes the bestseller list. Good friends enable me to dilute that grizzly old error of competiveness.
Another blessing that good friends bring me is a window on the world. Often, my friends and I have very different backgrounds, experiences, ages, and histories. I have several friends who grew up in upper middle class families and went to prep school and Ivy League colleges. They help me understand an American experience that is very different from my beginnings.
I also have friends who are immigrants from England, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Peru, China, and Korea. They help me see the United States in its very best light. My treasured friends make me less insular in my world view.
Having friends with very different backgrounds requires me to accept them as they are and not waste time wondering why they aren’t exactly like me. I don’t look for agreement. Like Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes.
I have been blessed with good friends all my adult life. It started in high school when I gave up trying to be “in” with the most popular crowd and began to choose own friends. One of them was a girl of Japanese-American background who had just left an internment camp. She showed me what meticulous ambition could look like and she went on to be head nurse at Presbyterian Hospital. She taught me a lot. When you look back at your early friendships, can you see how they helped you learn new lessons?
Of course, friendships blossom and wane. There were many wonderful people in my past who are no longer on my active friend list. Times change. People move away or die. Interests disappear. It doesn’t mean I treasure them less, just that I don’t see them as often.
When I was a young mother, my best friends and I shared our love for our children and our concern for their growth. I learned from them all – the mothers and the children.
I learned a profound lesson from a friend I didn’t really think was a very good mother. She had a drinking problem and I’m happy to report that she eventually gave up alcohol. After her daughter was grown, she told me that her daughter said, “You don’t need to feel guilty, Mom. You gave me the greatest gift of all – you showed me that people can change.”
We can all change and that is one of life’s greatest lessons. I have made plenty of mistakes over the years and I have leaned on that story. I assuage my guilt by reminding myself of my friend’s experience. Have you learned any profound lessons from your friend’s problems?
Do you have friends that share your dreams? When I was a beginning writer I belonged to a group that met weekly to share their hopes, dreams and writing experiences. They were very, very good friends for several years and then I moved away and I also lost interest in writing young adult books.
I found my some of my strongest, and longest friendships when I got sober. I will always be grateful to my Twelve Step friends. They were there for me when I most needed a friend. My sponsor was such a good friend that I still miss him although he’s been gone for at least eight years. There were many others. I treasure their memories because they saved me from my very worst self-destructive self. What more could anyone ask of a friend?
Most of my current friendships are people I meet in the ministry. Some are members of my own center. Others are ministers and former ministers I know through the Religious Science organization. We all share an interest in using Science of Mind in our lives. That makes us mutually supportive and lovely to be with. No gossip. No rivalries. No “ain’t it awful” conversation. My Science of Mind friends help me remember that God is Love.
Actually, all my friends have taught me that God is love, and that life is good. I cannot imagine going through life without good, strong friendships. We all need to be connected to others. We can actually experience the concept of God as love when we are with our friends.
One of the most important things that religion provides is a sense of unity with life. Whether it is sitting on a park bench with other parents watching our toddlers play or holding the hand of our friend who has received bad news, we feel connected when we are with friends. We treasure that feeling of togetherness.
Friends are important. We need to reach out, nurture and consciously grow friendships with others. It is wise to be wise to be pro-active about friendships. I have observed, over the years, that many people feel isolated. When others reach out to them, they say yes, but they don’t always make the initial invitation to friendship.
If you want more friends, you need to put aside any old beliefs and be assertive. Why not make a few overtures yourself? Why not ask someone to go out for coffee after the meeting? Why not make a phone call to someone you haven’t seen for a while? Why not introduce yourself to the church newcomer? Those are all simple first steps anyone can take.
Do I treasure my friends?
Is there an old friend I want to reconnect with?
Is there someone new I’d like to know better?