The True Meaning of Friendship

It is not often that I am disappointed by a friend, or rather “allow a friend’s action to get me down” but sometimes it does happen, and I find it important to reflect on it, delve a little deeper into it…What is the true meaning of friendship?

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When it comes to friendship, my dad is someone that has really lived by example and has been a great model for me.

He knows how to be a true friend and because of it, he has a good number of loyal friends that would give their life for him. He often says 2 things about friendship that I find very profound and true, and I want to share them with you today.

When a friend has asked my dad a favor or something that he might not be too keen on doing, he has done it anyway, and when I asked him why, he has simply said: honey, these are the requirements of friendship, that is to say, in order to have true friends, you need to make certain efforts on your part.

Another great thing my dad has always said is that in friendship (as in any other close relationship for that matter) the most important thing is not to “give” the other something, but rather to “give oneself” to the other. This means that giving your friend a present or letting them use your car when you don’t need it, is good but not as important as BEING there for them, knowing how to truly listen to them, giving your time to them (even when they are not an enjoyable company,) giving something to them that may require an extra effort for you.  Being a friend is not always supposed to be easy and enjoyable!

Being there for a friend or giving them something when it inconveniences you is much more meaningful that hanging out with them for fun or doing them a favor that doesn’t inconvenience you in any way…

Of course, those friends that like to hang out with you when you are having fun, are cool! but those who are by your side even when you are no fun, those who stick by you in your darkest moments (when you most need them,) those are real friends. As the saying goes:

“Hard Times will Always Reveal True Friends”

Let’s be honest, probably most of us only have a few friends we can call our real friends, the rest of them are more like acquaintances, and it is nice to have both, but it is important to know the difference, so you are not disappointed when you realize that someone you thought was a real friend, isn’t really more than an acquaintance and therefore will not go the extra mile for you.

It is true that we are not always able to help our friends in the way they may need, but having an honest willingness to help and doing ALL we can is good enough. There are certain times you may not be able to do do what they need, even if you try, and if they are your true friends, they will understand that!

But don’t be confused, there are things that you certainly CAN do, but are not willing to… or are too lazy to… NOW that is different, that means you are NOT willing to go the extra mile, and therefore you are not being a true friend.

Now, how exactly do we build and nourish our friendships? What determines the meaning we give to friendship?

Different cultures attach different meanings to friendship, I know for instance that in the latin culture, friends may seem a lot more intrusive and demanding than in other cultures, which can be good or bad. There are cultures in europe where it is incredibly hard to make new friends, but when you make a friend, they are with you for life, because they see friendship as a very solid commitment and take it very seriously, and there are cultures like the US where you can make friends everywhere you go, and you call everyone your friend, but only a tiny percentage of all those “so-called friends” are true friends and are really committed to you.

Your family of origin also influences to a great extent the way in which you build your closest relationships and how deep they are, and that includes friendships of course.

Deep down, the only way to have real friends is to be one yourself, so you need to be aware of your limits and willingness when it comes to be there for a friend…ask yourself how far are you willing to go for them? how much are you willing to give yourself? your time? your effort? How committed you are to the friendship?

To me a friend means a lot more than someone I hang out with every now and then and do something fun with. A true friend means someone you can count on for anything and anytime, someone you deeply trust, someone you can call in the middle of the night if you need to, someone you feel free to be vulnerable with, someone who knows your dark side as well as the bright.

I do believe that life is made of relationships, after all humans are social creatures, so it is important to relate to others wherever we go and to have all sorts of people in our lives, but it is equally important to be clearly aware of who your true friends are. Maybe those times when you are not sure about a friend, the only way to find out is by giving them a chance to step up, and if they don’t, then you know they are in a different category, which doesn’t mean you need to take them off your life all together! it just gives you more clarity.

However, if you are very often disappointed by your friends, or find that you don’t have any true friends, maybe you should look inside and find out what kind of a friend you are? what does friendship really mean to YOU?

Have a Great Week!


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Relationships… Our Greatest Teacher!

A few days ago I saw a quote that somebody shared on Facebook, and I have been thinking a lot about it…

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I was looking for it again, but of course I could never find it on Facebook (too many things going on there :). So I looked around, goggled a bit and finally found something that sounded pretty close:

“In life, God doesn’t give you the people you want. Instead, he gives you the people you need – to teach you, to hurt you, to love you, and to make you exactly the way you’re meant to be.”

Some people will argue that God does not send others to hurt us, of course not, I agree, but we can’t take this quote so literally, the whole idea here is that every single human being we come in contact with, is, to a certain extent, our teacher.

In our lives, people come and go all the time, with some of them we may only share a few minutes with others we may share a lifetime, and we have everything in between, but each and every one of them crosses our lives for a reason.

I once met a guy in a train, he made a comment on the book I was reading, and we shared a brief conversation in which he recommended another book to me; our conversation lasted just a couple minutes, I never saw that guy again, yet the book he recommended to me was a life-changer. This is an example of a quick encounter that brought something very meaningful and long lasting to my life.

Then, we can all think of more obvious examples, for instance: friends or family members that helped us through difficult times or teachers that were mentors to us at some point. But what about those relationships that we may have seen as negative, toxic, difficult; or those that did not last as long as we had hoped for and left our hearts broken. Well, even those relationships where there for a reason.

The truth is, our lifetime on earth is nothing but a journey of growth, a journey in which we have to find ourselves and find peace, contentment and ultimately happiness. But this journey is also a journey of struggle, loss and grief, because it is often on the moments of hardship that we can really grow, renew, restart, transform, etc.

And since relationships with our fellow human beings are probably the most important source of emotions in our lives, there is no mystery that it is through relationships that we can learn the most, and grow the most. Every relationship in our lives is to some extent a reflection of what we need to learn at any given time, sometimes the lesson is clear and easy to grasp, other times it is hidden and complex, but it is there nevertheless.

The loss of a relationship is probably our greatest teacher, because with grief comes new understanding and from new understanding comes growth and transformation.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a group meditation with Tara Brach, and she shared a story that brought tears to my eyes. I would like to share it here because I think it is relevant to the topic of grief and loss of relationships:

It is said that Kafka one day found a little girl sobbing desperately at a park, she told him she had lost her doll, he then told her the doll was not lost but rather went off to travel the world. Week after week Kafka saw the little girl at the park and brought her a letter from her doll, sharing her wonderful travels and telling the girl not to worry because she was happy.

Finally, a few months passed and Kafka brought a doll for the girl, it looked totally different, so he told the girl that her travels had “changed” her.

It wasn’t until the girl was a grown woman that she found a little note hidden inside the doll, and the note read:

“You will loose everyone you love in life, but love will come back to you in different forms

I am actually crying as I am writing this… Although we may not actually loose everyone we love, the last quote really hits a note of truth for all of us. Life is made of small and big losses that can break our hearts over and over again, when we see dear friends move away, when we leave our parents house for the first time, when we fall in and out of love, when we loose a loved one, etc. All these are part of life and we have to live through each and every one of them.

So, no matter how long a relationship is in your life for, it is important to cherish it, take the best of it, give the best of you and let it go when it is time for it to go. Living in the present or rather living “in presence” (there is actually a big distinction between the two!), can help us see every relationship with more clarity, as well as enjoy every person in our lives without any attachment to them.

Relationships are one of our best teachers, so be thankful for each and every person in your life and what they bring to you, in whatever form they do, remember, they are there for you to grow and become a better version of yourself.

Have a good week!