This is a question we all struggle with. In a world where materialism is so prevalent, it becomes exceedingly difficult to answer, because most people have an agenda, or want something from us – or so it seems. Friends are a very important part of our lives. We either discover them, miss them, or are completely unaware of their existence.
Is someone who calls you every day, follows your expectations and protocols, and attends all your celebrations your true friend? What about the person who always smiles and makes you laugh? Or the one who is blunt and tells you what he or she thinks, irrespective of how you feel? Or the one who only contacts you once a year or even less? Or the one who just carries you in his or her heart, but sees no need to speak to you regularly? These are questions to consider, because a friendship is something we invest in so heavily, in terms of time, energy, resources, and emotions. It is most fulfilling when we are right about our friends and heart breaking when we are wrong. Of course, being right or wrong is also a matter of our own perceptions, degree of self-centeredness, and level of acceptance and understanding of others.
I learned about friendship through the experience of someone very close to me. Many years ago, he went through a very difficult phase, when he lost his business and everything he had built. He went from a comfortable life with lots of friends to having nothing, almost overnight. When all was good, he had friends who spoke to him multiple times daily, shared in his celebrations, and followed his expectations. He was a popular and happy man. When the downturn came, most of them disappeared for reasons of their own, leaving him heartbroken. The ones who turned out to be his true friends appeared from the most unexpected corners. People who seldom called him and rarely attended his invitations featured in his life in a prominent way, standing by him and helping him on his way up. In his moments of adversity, strangers also came through and became his long lasting friends. Of those who called him every day, only one remained by his side.
My friend’s experience is by no means an absolute yardstick by which to measure friendship. However, it does suggest that we be mindful of our perceptions of the people who do not fit into our moulds and expectations. It is possible that they may be our real friends. Also, it is possible that the brutally honest and frank ones may be our best advisors and supporters in difficult times. Friends that make us feel warm and fuzzy may or may not always stand the test of life. Discovering true friendship is one of the joys of life. It is a continuous pursuit, and for our part, we must do everything we can to hold on to true friends.
Friendship is a two way street and today is a perfect time to honour this precious gift. Let us start each day, with a prayer for all our friends and keep our hearts open for the true ones to occupy forever…