I recently had a conversation with a friend I didn’t know was a friend. I had know this person for the past few years on a very casual basis. Neither one of us really knew anything about each other. All I knew was that this person was the kind of person you’d probably like to get to know better.
Never did I expect one simple question to dramatically impact me so profoundly.
It wasn’t so much the question itself, it was the interaction that stemmed from the question. We began with a very innocent and simple question, which morphed into a conversation which gradually became a far deeper conversation, well beyond where either one of us ever expected the conversation to go. Through our dialog we discovered many similarities between us. We also shared some of our hopes and dreams as well as some of the troubles life was throwing at us.
It was an incredible conversation, much more of a connection between two people comfortable enough to entrust some deeply personal thoughts with each other, and a commitment to proactively “be there” for each other. A promise to inspire each other as we strive to fulfill our hopes and dreams. A promise to help each other get unstuck when the weight of our troubles grinds us to a halt.
Our conversation has challenged me to re-examine what friendship actually means.
NO CLOSER We all have people in our lives we consider friends. Friends are people that you’d do anything for. Usually helping out a friend in need is reactionary. They need our help because something has already happened that they need to resolve. Being there is what good friends are supposed to do.
Most relationships these days, including those with our friends, have become more superficial. The pressures and demands of each day leave very little time for the deeper things, a troublesome side effect of the age we live in. You’d think that with Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and unlimited texting that our relationships with our friends would have gotten deeper. But have social media and cell phones actually brought us closer to those we consider friends?
DEEPEST FEARS My conversation with my new friend was the deepest, most meaningful conversation I have had in a very long time. I had forgotten how this type of conversation makes me feel alive, makes me feel purposeful. It is forcing me to look at the quality of the conversations I have with all my friends. I wonder how well I really know the people I consider to be the most important in my life.
I know where my friends work. I know their birthdays. I know their political views. I know where they vacation. But do I know what their deepest fears are? Do I know of the frustrations that they may be feeling in their lives? Do I know of their regrets? Do I know of what they really hope to achieve in this world?
Sharing deeply held emotions is not something people readily volunteer. We are taught that we need to be strong. We are not supposed to show any weakness or fragility. Sharing deeply held emotions opens us up to uncertainty, the uncertainty that our honesty may be used against us. In an unforgiving world, who wants to show that they are vulnerable? Who wants to admit that they hurt?
QUIET DESPERATION Something tells me that inside all of us, though, there is something that hurts. Behind the warmest eyes, the prettiest smile, the manliest of handshakes, inside there is something that hurts. Perhaps a quiet desperation. It could be fear, frustration, confusion, uncertainty, a lack of acceptance. It could be events in your past that have profoundly damaged you. It could be as simple as feeling alone.
If I am a true friend, isn’t it my responsibility to know these things about my friends? Do I not have an obligation to let my friends know that I am always available should their hurt start to hurt too much? That I am here with shoulders to cry upon and shoulders to stand upon? That I am here to inspire them and to challenge them to become all that they were created to become?
I’ve always “been there” for my friends when they’ve needed me. But do they know that I am here for them before they need me, before the hurt starts to hurt in the first place?
BEING PROACTIVE Even those who are friends may not be willing to share their deepest thoughts or the source of what hurts. Again, society frowns on the admission of pain. But letting those in your life know that you are available, unconditionally, to help them deal with their pain may open up a dialog that can possibly make the pain go away.
Pain usually never goes away by itself.
There is a hauntingly beautiful song by the band REM entitled “Everybody Hurts”. The song encourages us to “take comfort in your friends”. It’s a great thing to have friends to comfort you when the world is bringing you down. But the lesson my new friendship has taught me is that friendship should be far more proactive.
Friendship is more than being there when things go wrong. It’s about establishing deeper connections, about really getting to know those you love and cherish the most. Proactively befriending those in your life creates a deeper connection and understanding which has the power to change lives, both for you and those around you.
It’s being there before things go wrong.
The love established through deeper human connections is the ultimate pain killer.
Gandhi tells us to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Establishing deeper connections with and a deeper understanding of all the people in your life will profoundly change your immediate world and all those in it.
DON’T ASSUME Take a look at your circle of friends. Sure, they know that you’d be there for them in their time of need. But do they know that you’re there for them before their hurt starts to hurt in the first place? I encourage you to gain a deeper understanding of those you love and to establish a more proactive relationship with all of them. Let them know that you are there for them, to encourage and inspire them, to chat when they feel weak, to remind them of all the greatness that lies within them.
Isn’t that what friendship should really be?
And don’t assume that they know. Be proactive and make sure that they know.
In our fast-pace, disposable, superficial world, never before has the need for deeply meaningful human connection been greater than it is today.
It’s a great day to be you!