As I think of the holidays approaching and what it means to me, I think of the last three years of my life. Although friends were always important to me, I did not put my relationship with them at the front of my list. My marriage, my job, and taking care of myself took precedence. When I was suddenly without my marriage and my life felt devastated, my friends were still there for me.
In the book Eat, Pray, Love, when our writer is in India, she makes friends with a guy named Richard. One day she was talking to him about the loss of her soul mate and the love they had. During the conversation, he told her that she had no idea how big love is, that when the love for one is gone, our heart has the opportunity to open to the whole universe. It got me to thinking about the meaning of love and how big it really is. We are trained to focus our love on one person so that we can create a family. But without community our family would not survive.
Without friendships, we would not be able to live. Studies reveal that older people with large circle of friends were 22% less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. Friends, are meant to bring happiness in your life and to share your sorrows. You are less susceptible to diseases like colds when you have good friends. Strong social ties promote brain health, with lower anxiety and depression levels. Employees work harder when they work with friends who are more industrious than themselves, compared with when they work with people who are not their friends, a research paper, Social Incentives in the Workplace, has concluded.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve found that people who have more friends and support people in their lives are happier. Their health is better. When they do get sick, they heal faster because they know someone is caring about them. So many people are reluctant to receive help when they are ill. Yet as they learn that someone cares about them and for them, they heal.
People often think that friendships should be easy. Your dear friends shouldn’t give you a hard time. If you spend enough time with anyone, you will come up against something you don’t agree about. That’s when it’s important to be able to communicate. There are three elements to good and lasting friendships when the going gets tough – willingness, no expectations, and love.
When you are willing to listen to a friend when she has a hard time its one thing, but are you willing to listen when the hard time is you? Are you willing to take no for an answer when your friend has something else to do. Are you willing to forgive when your feelings have been hurt? Willingness is making the choice to engage in the relationship through good and bad times.
Expectations are unspoken demands, thoughts or constructs that cause you to think a person owes you something or should act a certain way. Of course certain expectations are good, you want a friendship to be a two-way street, and not be cruel or abusive. Harvey Mackay is an author and great inspirational speaker. He talks about giving without expecting anything in return. The foundation of his career is his relationship with people and how he nurtures them. Lets say you give your friend a gift for his birthday, then when the time comes for your birthday he doesn’t give you anything. If you expect him to do something different, you might find that your feelings are hurt. If you gave the gift because you wanted to make him happy, without any expectations of return, you will be happy too.
I’ve had a dear friend for over 18 years. Our relationship has not always been easy. There are times when we don’t understand each other easily, and times when we are hurt and the other seems to be the cause of it. We’ve each been willing to come back to one another and keep working it out, because the foundation of our relationship is our love. When you do things because you love, miracles happen. The love becomes your guiding light and shows you what will be the right way to do something.
As humans we aren’t all perfect. Our relationships with one another often mirror our pain especially the people we are close to, it is our willingness, love, and no expectations, that will bring us home.
Shiroko, this is an amazing article. It rang true on so many levels for me. Thank you for reminding me of the value of friendship!
Beautiful thoughts, Shiroko. And a good reminder to be "soft," forgiving and generous with those we love.