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What Are Friends For?

I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar.

~Robert Brault~

I was thinking the other day that we tend to take friends for granted. We expect them to be there when we need them, to understand us and support our efforts.

I realized that all friends are not the same. We have acquaintances whom we greet when we see them. We usually know each other by name, briefly comment on the weather, sports or other shared interests and go on about our business.

Another group of friends consists of people with whom we may go to events, share tools or help out with major projects. They are not in our lives on a constant basis but seem to show up when needed, sometimes without being asked. We expect these friends to be aware of our needs and help out when they can. We do the same for them. We tend to be offended if they ignore our needs.

We have close friends who know more about us. We share with them the major struggles in our lives and expect them to know how we feel about most things. Even if our opinions do not agree, we expect them to respect what we think, as we do for them.

There is another level of friendship whose members have come to be known as soul mates. They know us better than we know ourselves. They can act as our conscience and can tell us things which would cause offense if we heard them from someone else. They are almost part of us and can sense what we think or feel.

These four types of friendship develop from acquaintanceship to deeper relationships over time if we let them. Some people don’t allow themselves to have many acquaintances, if any. They routinely ignore others’ attempts to share a friendly hello and make it clear that they do not want to share their lives with anyone. After a while people stop making the effort and leave them to their isolation.

We can return friendly chatter and keep our involvement at that level. Or we can begin to share some of ourselves and take an interest in others in return. As we discover what we have in common, interests grow and deepen. Again we have a choice of how much we are willing to share.

As we get to know and trust casual friends, they may eventually join the circle of our close friends. We know they will be there for us when we have a major crisis and we are there for theirs as well. We share deeply in each other’s joys and sorrows and sometimes seem like part of each other’s families.

Soul mates do not seem to be chosen. I don’t think we pick people out at any of the three previous stages and decide we would like them as soul mates. It just happens over time. It is almost as if we allow these people into our brains and emotional centers so that they become part of us. I don’t think everyone has a soul mate.

Many people are not comfortable sharing enough of themselves to allow this level of intimacy. No matter how many friends we have, it is our job to treasure them and let them know we appreciate them, as well as being there for them when they need us.

Action Steps

  • What do you expect from your friends?
  • Are your expectations realistic?
  • Do you expect more from your friends than you are willing to give?
  • Do your offer your friends the best you have?
  • Let your friends know how much you treasure them.

Selection from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage, available at Amazon