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Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
FriendsPosted Monday, January 31, 2011, at 1:24 PM
There is nothing better in this world than a good friend.
And, there is nothing worse than discovering someone doesn't want to be your friend.
I don't know a good definition for friend. You'll find several in a variety of dictionaries but I have come to realize that no one definition fits all those relationships.
There are those friends who come into your life for very brief periods of time; yet, somehow they offer you the opportunity of great wisdom and growth through periods of change. Even in their eighties my parents would often talk about their friends during World War Two, people who shared maybe fifteen months with my parents at different military bases but whose impact would continue touching my parents for the rest of their lives.
There are those people who make periodic appearances in your life at just "the right time." I have two friends from college that I rarely see. Yet, when I'm going through a crisis, out of the blue I will receive a phone call from one or a visit from the other.
They always know just what to say.
There are friends who are with you nearly every day. The depth of their friendship is not great but the consistency of such dependable colleagues is very comforting. Sometimes I see this with people who have kept a friend their entire lives. The depth of the relationship may not be great but there is something very satisfying for each that they are still facing life together.
There are even friends who challenge you, threaten your stability, or cause you to get upset as you suddenly realize your own core values, the beliefs about life that make you different than your "friends." I have one friend who is to the right of Attila the Hun and another who is to the left of FDR. Get us together for a meal at a restaurant and we'll be kicked out for all the noise of our conversation!
Yet, I leave such high spirited times knowing more about myself than with any other type of friend.
I am very fortunate in that I have many good friends. Take all of the subtypes listed above; I can list several names for each category of friend. While I greatly admire most of the teachings of Virginia Satir I pity her when she wrote that one would be very lucky indeed to have five friends throughout one's life.
One of my weaknesses in life is that I'm often slow to understand that there are some people who just don't want to be my friend. My older sister says that I've had "the puppy dog syndrome" all of my life. Sometimes it takes me months to realize I'm the only one investing in the friendship. Other times it takes me a year or two to realize that my invitations aren't being received.
For instance, I love going out for a meal with friends. I'll often time be the one who initiates such. I've finally written a rule of thumb for myself. If a person turns me down four consecutive times then I need to wait and see if that person reaches out to me. If so, great! If not, then there is a lesson for me to learn and others in which to invest.
I've also had to learn to be hesitant in my vulnerability around new "friends." I have this tendency to drop my defenses and let my hair down. I've had to write a rule of thumb that I need to wait several weeks or even months before doing so, slowly dropping one shield at a time. I've come to discover that a person who isn't being vulnerable around you may not be so honorable with your trust.
Friendship. Mark Twain wrote in his letter to Mary Mason Fairbanks that friendship should be build upon a rock and not upon the sands that dissolve away with the ebbing tides (partial quotation, paraphrased).
Take a look in your own life at the people you call friends. Be thankful for them. Send a note this week expressing your pleasure at having them in your life.
And thank the universe for the friends who have been so important to you so far and for the friends who are to come.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.