“A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.” — Elbert Hubbard
Friends are Good for Us
Who would I be without my friends? Certainly a far less happy creature. Here’s a partial list of all the things friends are good for.
- Health – research is clear – people who have friends are healthier and live longer
- Solving problems and getting things done – how often does just talking things over with a friend shed new light on a problem? Or the friend helps you do it? An eye-opening new book by David Burkus talks about networking in the 21st century. It’s called A Friend of a Friend.
- Comfort – feeling we belong. When we need comfort, friends are the best
- Learning the truth – they’ll tell us when we have spinach on our teeth
- Saving the world – the impetus for this Fresh Views came from an interview I heard on the radio, called “How Friendship and Quiet Conversations Transformed a White Nationalist.” Look it up and listen to the interview. I promise you will be thinking about it for a long time. Making friends with people very different from ourselves may be the only reliable path to peace.
The Power of Friendship
In the mid-1800s, British novelist William Thackeray described the powerful influence of friendship….
Under the magnetism of friendship the modest man becomes bold; The shy, confident; the lazy, active; and the impetuous, prudent and peaceful.
Given this power, we need to choose our friends thoughtfully, because people who are up to no good can become our friend and then influence us against our better judgment. Still, we don’t want to limit our friends to people just like us. Some of the richest friendships develop when we get to know people with totally different backgrounds and experiences from ours. One of my favorite books is called Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland. In it, she details friends from different species who have become genuinely attached: A hippopotamus and a pygmy goat, a macaque and a dove, a leopard and a cow. (Add people and dogs and cats.) The pictures stretch our concept of potential friends.
Friendships must be cultivated and nurtured to thrive. When I was a young mother I returned to college. I was in deep need of a friend. In my Shakespeare class there was a woman who also looked older than most of the students. In an uncharacteristically bold move, I walked up to her at a break, introduced myself, and announced that I needed a friend. To my delight, Joanie was very responsive, and we became fast friends. 50 years later, with a continent separating us, we continue to be friends today.
One of the things I know about strong marriages is that the partners usually describe each other as “best friends.” Ed Cunningham said it well: Friendship is the most constant, the most enduring, the most basic part of love. When the inevitable difficulties arise, the bedrock of friendship is still there.
Make new friends. Reconnect with old ones. Nurture friendships by getting together, talking on the phone, sharing experiences, thoughts, fears, joys. I guarantee this will improve your life. When we have friends and treasure those friendships, life is good!
- What friend do you treasure? Call and tell them.
- What friend have you been intending to contact? Call or write within the week.
- How friendly are you feeling toward your partner/kids/parents? How could you improve the friend part of those love relationships?
- Who would you love to have as a friend? Be bold like I was with Joanie.