Friendship is a lot like art; we find it difficult to define, but we know it when we see it, or more accurately, we know it when we feel it. The width and depth of friendships in a person's life can have a lot to do with overall happiness and sense of well-being. But a term so common that we all assume we know what it means may, for that reason, be worthy of a deeper look.
Some people have a lot of friends. Some have few or none. Some friendships last a long time, others are fleeting and only for a season. And while no one should or could define the depth and quantity of friendships for another, there is a certain amount and quality that is required for all of us as part of the overall picture of happiness and fulfillment in our lives. We ignore this truth at our own peril.
Friendships are a special kind of relationship where two people, for whatever reason, develop a bond. Perhaps they have something in common, or they enjoy an activity together, or they just seem to "click." Over time, the predictability, comfort level, and mutual gain from the relationship strengthens and the bond of friendship is formed. It requires nothing formal, nothing so much as even an admission that it exists, but it exists nonetheless. Friendships grow, as all good parents should know, on the truth that love is spelled "T-I-M-E." As time passes it allows the connections of friendship to strengthen. Memories are made, events are encountered together, and an overall environment of trust and predictability is fostered. There must be some degree of openness and honesty for anything real to develop. Unselfishness and some amount of mutual respect are also required. In the end, both parties must somehow be "served" by the connection for it to last. Friendships, then, grow quite naturally out of a bond that develops between two people for their mutual enjoyment and gain.
But friendship is not so clinical as all that makes it sound. Real friendship is something quite special, something to be treasured, something to be respected and maintained and provided for over time. Real friendship can become one of the most enjoyable portions of our time on this earth.
How does one become a friend? How does one attract and maintain friends? Friendship is an art of the heart. The more you have a heart for other people, and the more you are able to express it in ways sincere and creative, the more people will be attracted to you on a level of friendship. I have been blessed with many deep and lasting friendships in my life. I attribute these to the Grace of God in bringing them into my life more than any ability or worthiness of my own. Nevertheless, I cherish them and seek to foster and strengthen them as if they were entirely my responsibility. These people are special, and they have provided so much for me over the years that I want to give back into their lives as well. In other words, I want to be worthy of their friendship.
A quesion we should consider is whether we are good at making friends? Are we the kind of people others are attracted to? Do others know that we care? Can we be counted on in a time of need? Is our heart right toward others? Do we have a heart for people? Are we unselfish and focused on others?
A good exercise is to make a mental list of the poeple in your life who you consider to be your closest friends. Then, consider who might put you on such a list!
You may like the results of this thought process, or you may not. But it would be wise for all of us, whether we feel successful in the arena of friendships or not, to make some careful assessments of our ability as artists on the canvas of frienship. We could all stand to pick up the brush of "service to others," or of "patience and understanding," or of "encouragement and expression of affection," or of "listening without judgment," and apply them to the relationships in our lives, remembering that the best way to gain a friend is to be a friend.