On Friendship

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 with who we can be ourselves 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 lives 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,
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.

John O’Donohue

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 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?

As a life coach and retreat leader, Yota works with women seeking clarity, inspiration, and purpose in the midst of life changes. Her approach is intuitive and deeply influenced by her cultural roots, work and life experience, and her long-term practice of mindfulness meditation.

4 Comments

  • Linda Samuels

    Yota- Friendship. The friendship with others fleeting or deep. The friendship with ourselves. In a lifetime our friends shift and change. And the older I get, the more I treasure those friendships that have stood the test of time- the many stages and phases of life, growth, and other selves. My heart goes out to you for the loss of your childhood friend. I know she isn’t newly lost to you, but like your friendship that endured decades, so does the imprint her friendship has in your heart. I suspect that reading the article on friendship brought her front and center.

    The idea that some friends weave in and out of our lives or touch us for but a moment is so true. With some friends we share deep history, knowing, and understanding. With others a touchpoint only. I think about our friendship and how we connected in my early blogging days. I am so grateful that we did. And how we’ve reconnected again more recently. What wonderful timing. I value our friendship and connection.

    You spoke about being a friend to the self. Speaking to yourself as you would to a friend with compassion and understanding. I can’t imagine berating a friend- never ever. Yet, I don’t always extend that same kindness to myself. I am working on it. And I so appreciate your honesty and reminder. I can do better. I work on it each day.

    Thank you, my friend, for bringing our hearts to the front of our minds.
    With love and hugs

    • Yota Schneider

      Dear Linda,

      I am grateful for crossing paths through the years and for the warm friendship we continue to cultivate. It’s a gift.

      Thank you for your thoughtful response and mention of Eleni, my childhood friend. She was the last link to the past. To this day, something happens or an anniversary comes along and I think of how I would have reached out and called her to talk about it. She used to travel for the holidays but she would always call me as the New Year rang in to wish me Happy New Year and describe her surroundings. She was the one to wait to pick me up from the airport when I would go back to Greece and the one to drop me off when I’d leave but I’d better stop now 🙂

      Reflecting on friendship guided me back to self. It was inevitable. It is our relationship to self that defines us and how we show up in the world.

      Thank you again for listening and being fully present.

      Love and hugs right back at you. 💜

  • Kathleen

    I loved this post. It got me thinking how much an open and loving friendship helps me deal with my judgmental self and be more compassionate. Confusing accountability with self-punishment–yes! What a relief to put that one down!

    • Yota Schneider

      Thank you Kathleen. Compassion and judgement … they can’t coexist, can they? It’s work in progress just like us. When compassion wins, there’s lightness and a sign of relief.

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