We have friends, close friends, acquaintances, buddies, and chick cliques. We have the kind of friends we would lay our lives down for, post bail for, or give the shirt off of our backs. They are the first ones we call when we are going through something sad or happy. There are the kind that, when everyone else is busy, always has time for you. We take advice from some, want to be like some, and party with some. We usually know what we want from another person in the way of friendship, but how often do we question ourselves about what kind of friend we are and what makes us fit into someone else’s life?
I have one friend that I have known since I was 7 years old and we still do our best to stay connected, even states apart. We had years when we weren’t very good at that, but the older we get, the more important it seems to be. I have another long- time friend that goes back to my military days and she and I usually use email, the phone or Facebook to stay in touch. We had about 22 years where we had lost touch, only to find each other again. There is also another woman with whom I have been friends since 2000. We met in an online chat room during a difficult time in my life. We come from completely different worlds, but found common ground through a good solid year of daily chats. I then bravely got on a flight one month after 9/11 to meet her for the first time. She courageously met me at the airport and invited me to stay with her. We forged a bond that will last us for the rest of our lives. The most obvious common factor with these friendships is that they are all long distant relationships. We rarely get to see each other physically. It doesn’t lessen the connection I feel with each of them.
I have good friends that I do get to see more often because of location and we are able to do things together. Most of those I met through church and our kids know each other and sometimes it feels like their kids are my kids and vice versa. One is like the grandmother my adult children no longer have on earth. There are other friends that go back to other places I’ve lived or went to high school with or we were in college classes together. Lately, I’ve made some new friends from among classmates of my husband’s and our new neighbors. They are all important to me.
The circle of friendship is wide, multi-purposed, ever-changing and very fruitful. I rarely try to weigh what benefits I get from any of my friends, but I often think about what I give to them. I hope I let them know how much I care, how much I think of them, and I try to make my presence felt even when I cannot be around them. How do I do that? I do that by staying in touch, regardless of how that has to be accomplished. It doesn’t have to be constant or even frequent. It just has to happen enough that they know they are still very much a part of my life. It means sharing the good, the bad and the ugly with them. I include them in my prayers and tell them I am only a phone call or message away whenever they need me and I mean it. I don’t try to score brownie points with them and I try not to take advantage of their good graces. I don’t compare them to each other or play favorites. Each one is precious to me.
We need friends. We don’t have to worry about the numbers. Having 350 people on your Facebook friend list doesn’t really amount to anything in the grand scheme of things unless you truly try to fulfill what friendship means with each of them. Most of those are really acquaintances. The more friends we have, the greater the blessing, but it also means more work. Friendship doesn’t just happen. You make it happen by what you do and say on an individual basis. Friends are our sounding board, our mirror in which we can see ourselves through another’s eyes, our support, and our safety nets. They bring us down to earth and lift us to the heavens. They are true and steadfast and have our backs. Friends can keep us centered, on track and honest. They can be our moral compass, our protection, and help us shape our other friendships. They keep us from being lonely.
Sometimes, there is a darker side to friendship. Some people can literally suck the life out of you. Some depend on you too much without realizing the harm they are causing. There are those that cannot accept that you are friends with others while you are friends with them. Friends can interfere and be too involved or give bad advice. Their definition of friendship may not be anything like yours and there is conflict over expectations. It can be difficult to decide when a friendship has to end because it has gotten to be too much to handle.
As in any relationship, there has to be balance. It shouldn’t be measured in time or effort because life gets in the way. We can’t always be there for someone just as we can’t expect someone else to always be there for us. There are times you need to be the bigger person, the better person, the one who doesn’t give up. There are times you will need them to do the same for you. You have to be able to apologize when you are wrong, treat your friends like the gifts they are, and know your boundaries. It means trusting and being honest with your feelings, but without being brutal. Are you giving as good as you are getting? You might not be best friends, but be the best friend you can be. It can be so rewarding when both keep the other’s best interest at heart.
If a friend of mine…gave a feast, and did not invite me to it, I should not mind a bit…But if…a friend of mine had a sorrow and refused to allow me to share it, I should feel it most bitterly. If he shut the doors of the house of mourning against me, I would move back again and again and beg to be admitted, so that I might share in what I was entitled to share. If he thought me unworthy, unfit to weep with him, I should feel it as the most poignant humiliation, as the most terrible mode for which disgrace could be inflicted on me…he who can look on the loveliness of the world and share its sorrow, and realize something of the wonder of both, is in immediate contact with divine things, and has got as near to God’s secret as any one can get. ~ Oscar Wilde~