After I finished reading an article on friendship the other day I took some time to reflect on the relationships that sustain us.
What does friendship mean? How does it support our lives and how do we cultivate it? What does it mean to have a life-long friend who we can be ourselves with and who knows us better than we know ourselves?
A friend of mine once said to me, “Not all friends are created equal. There are friends who come into our lives for a day, a month, or a year. We may share a meal or enjoy a few good moments with someone. There are those who come into our life to support us through a rough patch but don’t stay. If we’re lucky we may meet that one person who becomes a friend for life.”
In 2017 I lost my good friend to cancer. We met when we were fourteen years old and remained close even after I moved to the US in 1985. We knew each other in ways other people did not. We saw each other through heartbreak and joy and cheered one another on as we navigated our lives and careers. Of course, we had difficult moments but we grew up together and forged our friendship through life’s ups and downs. I feel her loss to this day.
Anyone who has ever engaged in a loving and open relationship with a really good friend understands the sacred value of deep friendship. We’re communal animals. It is our nature to want to give and receive love, to trust and lean on someone in times of pain and confusion, and share our joy and success.
May you be blessed with good friends,John O’Donohue
And learn to be a good friend to yourself,
Journeying to that place in your soul where
There is love, warmth and feeling.
May this change you.
Cultivating friendship involves commitment and the willingness to stay open as we grow along with another person. It creates a blueprint that points the way to cultivating friendship with ourselves as well.
What would happen if we aspired to cultivate a deep friendship with ourselves in the likes of the friendship we enjoy with another person?
In true friendship we see, understand, and accept another. What if we were able to extend that understanding, acceptance, and affection towards ourselves as well?
Where you are understood, you are at home.John O’Donohue
Have you had the experience where you engaged in conversation with yourself? I do it often and I am not always happy with how I speak to myself. I tend to be my own worst critic but I have been working diligently to become my own best friend too. I’m happy to report that I’ve been making progress. It’s a dance.
We are the only ones who can articulate what is going on in our hearts and our heads. Do we give ourselves the space to deeply understand what’s going on? Do we approach ourselves with kindness and tolerance or do we jump to denial, rejection, and consternation?
Good friends want what’s best for each other. Good friends are honest and hold each other accountable but will never judge harshly and put each other down with words or actions. They accept each other’s vulnerability and humanity.
What if we held ourselves the way we would hold a good friend, gently and with good intentions? What if we listened, deeply, and withheld judgment? What if we asked questions and listened to the answers bubbling up instead of trying to fill in the gaps? What then?
Would we be able to forgive our mistakes, make corrections, and chart a different course? Would we be able to grow more confident and be at peace with ourselves?
Life is hard enough without self-imposed suffering. We confuse accountability with self-punishment. What if we treated ourselves the way we treated our best friend, someone who trusts us and who we trust? What then?