Life today has become so fast paced and complex, many people invest little time in building lasting friendships. THE STATE OF FRIENDSHIP IN AMERICA 2013 REPORT findings indicate that that only a quarter of American adults are satisfied with their relationships; almost two thirds report that they are not confident, even in their closest friendships, and half say they hunger for deeper friendships.
We further complicate our chances of close relationships by imposing our own set of rules, agendas and unrealistic expectations on people, then wonder why we don’t have the meaningful connections with friends or family that we so long for.
Friendship is like happiness. We can’t grasp it by chasing or forcing it. Happiness is found in learning, sharing and working. Friendships grow through caring about what other people care about, sharing in the things that matter to them, not just what we think they need, but what they want and feel they need. Real friendship takes time and patience.
Friendship grows through working and playing together and you can’t always be the one who decides where, what or how to play, or what projects to invest in. That’s not fair. Other people feel like pawns or toys if you never want to do what they want to do. If you never want to share in what others care about, you don’t really like them and they know that. True friendship can never grow unless there is mutual respect.
Love has to be consistent, when our friends are being good, and when they are not being so good. If you invest in someone when they have plenty of energy and money and are ready to go whenever you ask them, but drop them when they become chronically ill, or broke or depressed, you don’t really love that person. If you revoke your friendship when someone’s religious beliefs, political ideas or social status begin to differ from yours, you don’t really believe in them. If a friend or family member chooses to forge a path you do not fully approve of or understand, that does not mean they no longer deserve or need your love, even when you can’t support their choices.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother (family member) is born for times of adversity (when all others walk away). Proverbs 17:17 (words in parenthesis are mine).
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that “spiritual matters” or “serious” conversations and activities are far more important than just having fun, or home decor or cooking together or sharing favorite songs, poems, books, and movies; more important than trading recipes, thrift store shopping or figuring out whether to try a new hair color or reminiscing over old photographs; but that’s the stuff life is made of. Without that, we don’t have relationships.
Even what we consider “spiritual” can become nothing but chasing after a feeling or a futile effort to earn love if we don’t appreciate the day to day treasures of light, texture, sound and color, because that is how God created us, and that’s how he reveals himself to us – not in otherworldly ways but through our human senses; through laughter and sunlight and the sound of falling rain; through blood, sweat, tears, ice cream, warm puppies and flowers; and especially through the imperfect perfection of each other, not in spite of it.
Demand less. Learn to just BE yourself and allow others to do the same.
These truths do not just apply to people who do not share our blood, wear our rings or live in our houses. They apply to family, too, perhaps even more than they do to others. Learning to stop complicating life and simply respect and enjoy one another may be the hardest thing to learn, but once we do, we’ll have mastered the art of living well, and maybe we’ll understand why God created us in the first place.
There are things you do because they feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good. © Brian Andreas, American Artist and Story Teller
Let’s start today.