On Wednesday at the book group we discussed the question “What is true friendship?”
This is a question that I have given weight to over the past year. In December 2010 Fi and I talked about friendship. I tearfully told her that I would like to be her friend, a real friend. I’d just lost faith that I had any idea about how that would look in practice.
You see I’d realised that I had often used friendships to avoid rather than express myself. I’d noticed that I’d used ‘friendships’ with women to avoid my loneliness and soulmate grief.
I’d begun to feel how hurt I’d been in my relationship with my mother and how that had effected every relationship with women since.
Too often I’d tried to gain approval rather than been willing to give or receive the gifts of true friendship.
Our conversation really started me on a quiet journey of self-reflection and it’s been a road on which I’ve paused at times to grieve what I thought I knew but didn’t, what I thought I’d lost but had never really had.
Here is what I have felt and learnt about friendship in the past year:
– a friend will tell you the truth of who they are and how they feel
– a friend won’t withdraw when they are challenged by the way we feel or live
– a friend lovesand gives without expectation, demand or desire for anything in return
Since I began to pray and desire to understand true friendship I have come to see that some of the people I thought were true friends were not, and some people I didn’t consider much had more integrity than I anticipated and offered me the qualities of friendship as a natural part of themselves.
Friendships, by nature of their honesty, their love, their gifts and their steadfastness in the face of change, can not only nourish us but also challenge us, and help us grow.
At times in the past I’ve used ‘friendships’ as ways to have commiseration for my woes and agreement for my self-righteousness and anger.
I now believe it is a true friend that will honour love and truth above accord in their relationships. And this not only makes them trustworthy, it makes them a friend in deed, in word and in spirit. It grounds them as an ally as I seek to honour for these things myself.
In the example in “Through the Mists” Helen and Frederick met only briefly while on earth, yet in that time they displayed to each the qualities of true friendship and thus formed a bond that reached beyond their earthly lives and into the heavens. Fred was so humble, so without demand or expectation, that he hardly understood that he should be rewarded for his gift of friendship nor did he see the measure of the gift he had given Helen i.e. peaceful resolution of her loving desire to have her charges cared for after her passing.
Have you experienced a friendship that has not only nourished you but also challenged you to be a better person?