Saturday, August 24, 2013

Friendship is Essential to the Soul

Better to give (by listening) than receive?

Are you using your friends every chance you get? I mean taking advantage of them whenever possible. You should be. I do. It hasn’t always the case but I learned the hard way that’s what you need to do, given we live in a cold, cruel world.
               That's right, you need to use them whenever you can. After all, what are friends for if you can’t use them? Of course, I don’t mean treating them like doormats or flunkies. And ‘friend’ in this case doesn’t refer to acquaintances that go only skin deep. I’m talking about personal relationships that have weathered the stormiest situations and stood the test of time; the kind in which you’ve accepted each other’s uh, peculiarities. You’ve met the skeletons in each other’s closets and despite knowing the worst, you’re still okay with one another. Could be in-laws or outlaws but in the end there’s give and take. Well, not always.
               Some folks, like me, have no trouble giving; that is, listening to a friend. The tricky part comes when I’m the one with a problem. There was a time when I didn’t do a lot of personal sharing (some say I still don’t). But back then I was self-centered enough to believe my problems were so unique that no one could understand. So I didn’t share. What nonsense.
It's no fun being alone with your problems
               In the old days I used to find it easier to reside solely on the giving end of friendships. That is, be the one with the listening ear. It’s only in the last few years I’ve learned to let my friends in when I’m really low, experience trouble or need a sounding board. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust them with my problems. Instead, it was because I didn’t believe our friendship could bear the stress of whatever it was I needed to get out. The weight of it all seemed too much to place on someone whom I valued so highly. After all, who’d want to listen to my pathetic life struggles?
               But when I finally learned to trust the integrity of my friendships and started sharing my problems, worries and fears, a funny thing happened: nothing. That is to say, it didn’t negatively affect my relationships. In fact with my true friends, it reinforced our bonds in ways I never dreamed. Being the strong, silent type has its limits.
               Over time, I learned that by simply listening, my friends allowed me to process out loud what I’d been dealing with inside. And it has a therapeutic effect; one that I always knew benefited others but never believed would be of help to me.
It's nice to have friends
All of this of course assumes that you even have friends. Friends of a sort who want and encourage you to use them in this manner. Friends you know you can trust to keep you feeling emotionally safe when you lower your guard long enough to get something off your chest. Or admit to something most would view unflattering. Or break down emotionally – in anger, sadness and/or in grief.
               Today, I’m a lot more open with my friends. The result? Deeper relationships, less internal stress (caused from holding so much in), and more enlightenment into who I am as a human being. A long time ago someone told me, friendship is essential to the soul. Too bad it took me so long to actually live into that phrase. But now that I do, life is so much easier. Check that; life is still hard, but thanks to my true friends, I have an easier time getting through it. I wager they’ll say the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment