“In a new friend we start life anew, for we create a new edition of ourselves and so become, for the time being, a new creature. Barbara had never done this interesting thing before. She had lived all her life in Silverstream and her neighbors were people who had known her from childhood, and therefore had a preconceived idea of her, so engrained, that they never saw her at all, any more than they saw the sponge which accompanied them daily into their baths. In creating a new Barbara for Jerry Cobbe, Barbara created a new facet of herself and was enlarged by it.” – D.E. Stevenson, Miss Buncle Married
I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately – the power and joy that can be found in friendship, as well as the challenges. What, I’ve been asking myself, IS friendship? And how can I be a better friend?
You know the lyrics to that old song – “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold”? Yeah. I’ve always had a problem with those words. They’ve never felt quite right to me. The implication there is that the friends we’ve had the longest are the golden ones, and our new friends are just silver. i don’t like that. It doesn’t seem fair somehow.
Sometimes, I think, we stop “seeing” our old friends – they just sort of freeze in our thought of them – we don’t see the changes and evolution and unfoldment – we don’t see them becoming something new. We stop listening to them because we think we’ve heard everything they have to say. And that’s a shame. There’s this great line in the movie Waitress that I think captures really well that feeling we get when we discover a new friend: “I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone.”
A “golden” friendship, in my mind, is any friendship that brings out the best in us – makes us less selfish, braver, kinder, wiser – helps us discover more of who we are as expressions of Love and Truth. There are those friends who see the good in us, and help us see it, too, through their eyes. They trust us. As Henry Drummond writes in his sermon, The Greatest Thing in the World, “To be trusted is to be saved. And if we try to influence or elevate others, we shall soon see that success is in proportion to their belief of our belief in them. The respect of another is the first restoration of the self-respect a man has lost; our ideal of what he is becomes to him the hope and pattern of what he may become.” Drummond asks,“Why do we want to live to-morrow? Is it because there is some one who loves you, and whom you want to see tomorrow, and be with, and love back? There is no other reason why we should live on than that we love and are beloved.” To be valued, acknowledged, recognized – to have someone who believes in you – that is a powerful and wonderful thing. And to be able to return those things – to value, acknowledge, and recognize the good in your friends – that is “golden.”
There is another type of friendship – one that’s maybe not so “golden” and not so healthy for us. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, describes this unhealthy kind of friendship in her book Miscellaneous Writings: “Whom we call friends seem to sweeten life’s cup and to fill it with the nectar of the gods… Perchance, having tasted its tempting wine, we become intoxicated; become lethargic, dreamy objects of self-satisfaction….” I think what Eddy is describing here is that kind of friendship that feeds our egos – the kind of friendship that leads to an addiction to praise. Instead of bringing out the best in us – making us less selfish – that kind of friendship makes us MORE selfish – more greedy for praise, more insecure when the praise isn’t constant and continual – in that kind of friendship we’re never satisfied and we’re never secure – we always want more. We want all our friend’s attention, time, and energy. That kind of friendship doesn’t bring us a whole lot of real joy.
I have an innate desire to want to fix things for my friends. I want to make all their problems go away. But I’m learning that I need to let my friends have their own life experiences – I’m learning that the times that might seem the most challenging for my friends, are the times that are going to end up bringing them into the most amazing places in their lives. If I’m a true friend, would I want to deny someone that opportunity for growth and unfoldmen? I like what Octavia Butler has to say about this: “Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny.”
I think we all are drawn to people who don’t judge us, who accept us for who we are, and love us unconditionally – people who have the ability to understand our feelings and thoughts and share in them with us. As Lucius Annaeus Seneca says, “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and be understood.” And as The Doors‘ Jim Morrison says, “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”
Here are some more quotes about friendship that I think are worth sharing –
“Love is the divine element in life, because ‘God is love.’ ‘He that loveth is born of God,’ therefore, as some one has said, let us ‘keep our friendships in repair.’ Let us cultivate the spirit of friendship, and let the love of Christ develop it into a great love, not only for our friends, but for all humanity. Wherever you go and whatever you do, your work will be a failure unless you have this element in your life.” – Henry Drummond
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer
“Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.” – Henry David Thoreau
“You can always tell a real friend: when you’ve made a fool of yourself, he doesn’t think you’ve done a permanent job.” – Laurence J. Peter
“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” – Walter Winchell
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” – Alice Walker