Words to Live By: Friendship

(This is one of a part of a series of WORDS TO LIVE BY. This series grew out of a workbook I first made for my young daughters and discussed at the dinner table. These Words include values, good ideas, and Words to aspire to….and learn from….enjoy!)

Friendship is a pretty ‘big’ thing to talk about right? Sure, we know that friendship can be great, fun, supportive, healthy, and all that stuff right? So what else can one write? Good question.

Friendship is a relationship between two people who hold mutual affection for each other.[1] Friendships and acquaintanceship are thought of as spanning across the same continuum. (wikipedia)

The above definition certainly is accurate, yet probably quite general and somewhat irrelevant. For many of us, we might sometimes view friendship as just people we “hang” with – people we party with – or just people we know.

“No love, no friendship, can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.” Francois Mauriac

Sometimes I think that the masses of society may get caught in the frame of mind what we ‘get out of’ ‘ a friendship, status, popularity and so on. On the other hand, my parents told me to choose friends, not because they are popular, attractive, rich, athletic, etc – but because they are good people and because you enjoy them – that they can lift you up. I know that I need to sometimes focus on being a better friend, giving more than receiving, and lifting others up more.

“You’ll make more friends in two weeks if you genuinely show interest in them than you’ll have in two years if you try to get them interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Do you lift up your friends? Do you encourage them? I like to think that I do but I confess that I probably don’t as much as I’d like to…we get caught up in our own problems and lives and make excuses – or at least I do. We need to lead, to help friends by example. We need to lift them up with sincere words of encouragement. Life can be challenging enough, friends shouldn’t bring us down.

My parents would comment on my friends really only in one way – not how they dressed or where they lived – but how they might raise me up or encourage me. My parents were frank when they saw a friend bringing me down, belittling me – or even one that was sad or depressed all the time. They let me make my own decisions but I am grateful that I was able to see the difference between the blamers/complainers and those people who help you stay positive, laugh and make good decisions.

Are your friends bringing you down? Lifting you up? Do you lift up your friends?

Values are a big part of friendship. If we don’t share values with our friends, often we no longer stay friends, right? We definitely should be friendly but maybe at some point our friendship doesn’t go deeper?

I am a part of a few charities. Not a lot but its nice. There are people there from all walks of life and income. However in most cases, we’re all a like because we give our time or efforts in some way, and we’re concerned for that purpose or mission in some way.

“What matters is the reinforcement and reminders that these men bring to me that affect so many areas of my life. We may not share the same way of doing things but we share the same values.” NFL coach and player Tony Dungy speaking on friendship, values, and experiences with charities

My children go to a private school and the tuition does limit our personal funds from time to time but we know that many parents there share our values, our commitment and we have made wonderful friends there.

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with..” Jim Rohn

You may have a long list of friends, but how long is the list of those people you talk to or with when life’s big decisions come along? Who do you seek for wisdom, laughter, insight and stability? Who stands by you? Who puts their interests before your own? Even if you disagree, talking about decisions and life’s challenges with a friend is priceless, especially in lieu of listening to the voices of the crowd and society. Are you on their ‘short list’?

Here’s a few friendship stories…

I have a good friend from grade school. We lost contact then regained it years ago and we’ve been very close. Ironically we are very similar in many ways yet very different in others. Through most of our lives we have often been physically sized the same and have some of the same attributes. I think that we have similar values regarding our family. He thinks about career and work differently in some ways and in his career he focuses on one thing with great diligence. Our personalities are different. I say this as a compliment, as I often can get distracted and I could move from one field to the next. He has been there as a friend for years. We’re definitely not sentimental or sappy with each other. We’ve seen each at our worst and best moments.In some ways we’ve told each other about it, too. When things got tough, he was a guy that was always supportive and easy to hang with, allowing me to joke, laugh, and enjoy life. It is tough for me to think of one specific thing he has done or said but I do know that as a friend, he has continued to support me and be a great guy.

In college, there was a small group of us that started to hang out, mostly due to the geography of our dorm rooms. We are from different backgrounds yet we clicked. Today we all have different lives but many of us still stay in touch. We like to joke and enjoy life. We are supportive of each other. We’ve seen each at our worst and best moments. Often we have been able to talk with each other about all sorts of challenges that life offers. When I lost family members, lost my job, and had other financial issues, these few guys were there. In some ways we might not talk for over a month, but then when we do, we re-connect and we’re there. I guess more recently I’ve felt like I have less to give these guys but hopefully I’ve been there for them when they needed it.

There are a few people that are also parents of my children’s classmates. Because of our kids, we hang out together. I’ve been very fortunate that many of these men and women are great, great people. Again, many of them have seen each us at our worst and best moments during times of loss and weakness. Like our other friends, we’ve celebrated events and had fun together. We’ve created great memories with these friends and our kids. We share laughter and fun.

There are other friends, too numerous to mention. I have a friend, an older buddy and mentor, who has been a great supporter, like an uncle of sorts; I’ve had bosses and managers close to my age who I still feel are friends and mentors. I’ve been lucky to have mentors of different kinds and different ages; these people have believed in me, sometimes more than I did in myself, and they gave me opportunities where I could excel. They helped me in these opportunities as well; often selflessly.

As I write this I find it difficult to describe all those things that are part of my friendships. There is laughter, communication, sharing ideas, support, venting, bouncing ideas, companionship, new experiences, shared experiences, and help. There is confidence, encouragement, guidance, and feedback. There are prayers, best wishes and caring thoughts.

There is ribbing, laughter, jokes, and things that snap us back to reality.

It’s nice when you can talk with someone about almost anything and not be judged. It’s great to know that, if you really needed it, a friend would be there with financial support if times really were pressing. Friends help us build memories and they enrich our lives. We help each other and we both benefit from these efforts.

Again, I come back to humor, laughter and happiness – what else is there really?……we need to learn to laugh more at ourselves, friends help us stay lose and to keep our perspective in check when we start complaining about life. Friends challenge us by words or by example. Friends drop everything to come to your aid. Friends comforting each other during times of loss is so very powerful.

Friendship, at least those that I’ve known, is about giving. So many people have been kind to me, giving, helpful, sharing, supportive – with no expectation of anything in return. They did it because we were friends or because it was right – or both.

As my daughters grow, I see that they have all sorts (and sources) of friends, and I’m happy about that. They don’t judge friends and I see friends from different economic and social backgrounds, which is great. They’ve had friends help them through losses and tough times, and vice versa. I am comforted to know that they are great friends in return as well. Regardless of our wallets and our status, it is great to have friends in our lives as we grow up. I wish them continued strong, deep relationships like I have had and I now have.

Just this weekend my wife and I had a medley of friends over and we’re so lucky, and so grateful for all the people in our lives. I know it sounds corny in many ways but I can’t imagine facing the challenges we’ve faced without friends. Sometimes just knowing that there is someone ‘there’ is enough.

Hey, what are friends for?

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