“Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.” Khalil Gibran
What is the most important thing you have to give others? Are your friends people who support the best or worst in you? What do you share that makes a friendship meaningful?
There have been times in my life when I have had friends with whom I shared only superficial interests because they were not people who had an interest in anything deeper. Any time I would start a conversation about the underlying meaning in a situation they would make a joke about it or ask me why I had to bring up that unpleasant stuff. Not surprisingly, as time passed we drifted away from one another, looking for others who shared our values.
Connecting With Friends
However, for most of my life, I have often been blessed by having friends who share my values. While we have fun and enjoy sharing superficial experiences, what makes our connection meaningful is that we have the need to go deeper, to understand the spiritual and psychological aspects of life. We love to discuss books and movies and art. We share the ups and downs of our lives. We share a love of nature. We listen deeply and speak from the heart.
Being a good friend requires the ability to give and receive. What we need to give is often obvious. A friend recovering from surgery needs us to run errands or cook food. A friend going through a divorce needs us to listen and empathize with her feelings. An elder needs help with yard work. These are all tangible and important ways to help, but what is one of the greatest gifts we can give a friend?
Helping Others See the Good in Themselves
Disraeli once said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own.” As a teacher, my most joyous moments were when I could help a student see how talented he was, or accept that his ideas were insightful, or develop the confidence to tackle a difficult problem or assignment. This kind of caring is a gift that lasts forever, for it changes the other person’s belief about their own capabilities.
Helping another person to see her own inner riches empowers that person. This is a huge gift—to help another see they are more loving, beautiful, caring, strong, insightful, sensible than they realized. Deep friendships are about opening doors as well as listening with love. Over the last few years as I wrote my spiritual memoir, the support of my friends has been invaluable. When I doubted my ability to write, they would point out a passage that really moved them. They inspired me with their own stories of overcoming fears and obstacles. They cheered me when I found the courage to overcome my fears and move ahead.
The Gift of Being a Loving Mirror for Our Friends
But there is another side to friendship too. In order to open a door or allow our friend to open that door to areas we may not find comfortable, requires trust. When we share our deeper feelings through time and they are received with love and acceptance, not judgment, we learn to trust that friend wants what is best for us. It is easier then to approach subjects that are not particularly comfortable.
At a point in my life when I was having many challenges in my work, I noticed that it seemed people were avoiding me. Puzzled by this, I asked a close and trusted friend to please tell me what she thought was happening. She began by reminding me that she loved me, then she gently explained that I was very reactive and defensive, and often snapped at people for what appeared to be no reason. I could feel my face turn red with embarrassment. Was that really true?
As I sat with this idea, I knew it was. I was constantly being criticized at work, so I was primed to defend myself, and this had spilled over into my personal life. I loved my friend even more for her courage in telling me the truth. As a result, I returned to my meditation and monitored my behavior so that I stopped alienating people.
We all need mirrors in our lives—people who will reflect back to us our best qualities as well as those behaviors we prefer to ignore. Most of the important changes we need to make are at deeper levels, and only friends with whom we share true relationships will be able to go there with us. Going deeper with a friend is the greatest gift of friendship that we can give.
How have you gone deeper with a friend lately?
© 2012 Georganne Spruce