If there has been a theme this past year of 2017, or for that matter this past decade, it is that friends are the part of life that makes life bearable, survivable, and a reason to push through the deep and hard places. We had dinner with an old friend that we seldom see because they live far away… we keep up with emails, and such, but it s not like sitting down over a meal and checking in.
Old true friends are such that you pick up where you left off… there is an unspoken deep honesty, and a transparency that allows us to get honest about struggles, weep deeply with each other, or dance with joy for the celebrations. And old true friends are perhaps the most rare thing about life. The art of friendship building is a sweetly rewarding skill. Deep in each of us are a few things that keep us sane and functional:
- We need to be valued and acknowledged – Like the saying from the tv sit com of the 80s (Cheers) – “Want to go where everyone knows my name.” Having identity gives purpose.
- We need to be able to speak and be heard – that listening ear helps to sound out even the most crazy of things, and somehow when its is out in the air the problem isn’t as monstrous as it was in my head. It helps to sound it out and know that we have someone to help carry the weight of the problem.
- We need to be ourselves – transparent, vulnerable, and holding nothing back. When we are able to find true friends that will treasure us warts and all we have found a great gift.
- Active listening, not plotting to jump in with the next sentence. I think what was so special about our dinner with an old friend was how he listened. He didn’t always have big answers, and sometimes he was very quiet, but he listened to us well… and he heard our hearts, Good friends do that. (Good listening habits are rare. More often than not I grow weary trying to chat with someone who has their own agenda, and seems to just overpower, out talk or just ignore what was just said. so i treasure great listening skills, and have been working hard to hone my own skills better.)
- Withhold judgement – We have heard that saying “Never judge someone, you don,t know the battle they are fighting.” and there is something deeply profound to that. You don’ t always have the full story – its hard to make a complete judgement without some key details. I have a friend that we have not seen in 10 years. He showed up with his one ear pierced, and noticeable earring in that ear. It could be easy to start judging… but when we asked him about it he told of a monumental battle to save his marriage, and as a result he drew on an old testament concept that he would relinquish his freedom, and become a servant to his wife. To mark that turning point he had his ear pierced, as was the custom of the old testament to permanently mark that passage from freedom to servant. One earring at first looked like wild rebellious choices, but in truth it was a humbling, powerful life lesson to all of us that we make decisions that can influence others.
These are the things that make life so much better… having someone that gets you, accepts you, and can pick up on the conversation right where we left off those many years ago. Yes indeed, friends are the bacon bits in the salad bowl of life.