Friendship comes easily for some people. Other people need to tangle with a metal hurdle and eat cinder from the track to find a true friend.
You guessed it. I’m the second kind.
In fact, ramming my right knee into a hurdle in eighth grade is exactly how I met my long-time friend. Believe it or not, our junior high (now a middle school) still has that red cinder track.
And my right knee really bugged me recently, after a five-hour stint in the car and our five-mile hike up Icicle Ridge.
It’s safe to say I don’t take friendship lightly, and I try to value each person who calls me a friend.
And I think the list is pretty short.
And not just because writer’s don’t get out much. Besides being an introvert (which doesn’t mean I’m shy or don’t talk much), I don’t share my heart with many people.
Well, except portions of my heart are available to anyone who reads my stories and books.
It’s funny how I try to be transparent in my writing, but I don’t bare my heart and soul to many people in face-to-face relationships.
Some people call everyone a friend, and while I try to be friendly to everyone, I have only a handful of close friends.
In my mind, these are rare people who can accept my flawed, opinionated self at face-value and aren’t trying to change me into something more acceptable. Not that all of them think I couldn’t change for the better, but their affection isn’t tied to those invisible standards to which I don’t measure up.
Here are some things I’ve learned about friendship from the tall girl who had to walk me in to the locker room on that long ago day at track practice:
- No one’s perfect, but anyone can pretend to be. When people only like you or want to spend time with you because you act a certain way (dress a certain way, work in a certain profession, earn a certain amount of money…and the list goes to infinity and beyond), they probably aren’t showing you their true heart and they don’t want to share yours.
- Time and distance never diminish authentic feelings. Some people can go years without seeing each other, and when they’re together they pick up as if no time passed. And they experience the same joy and connection as if they’d been together the entire time.
- Laughter only has value where tears do. Laughter’s the best medicine. A laugh a day keeps you healthy and young. As far as the benefits of laughter, they can’t be underestimated, but what makes a true friend unique is that they value tearful moments as highly as mirthful ones.
- Advice is given freely without any strings. Some people want you to tell them what to do, and when they give advice they expect you to follow it or “they’re done.” That’s not friendship. Friendship is 50 percent ears to hear, 40 percent heart to love and 9 percent eyes to see with only one measly percent mouth to spout advice.
- Listening goes both ways. Everyone knows people who talk and talk and talk. And when you talk, they aren’t listening but planning what they’re going to say next. A friend isn’t all about talking out their issues. They’re eager to hear what’s on their friend’s mind almost more than they’re waiting to finally share their burden with someone.
- Communication happens silently. “We looked at each other and burst out laughing.” Have you ever experienced it? Yes, if you knew the other person well enough to understand you were thinking the same thing at that moment.
- Time spent with them is a great investment. We’ve all spent a day with someone and felt emotionally and physically exhausted afterward. Time with a true friend energizes our soul and strengthens our emotions, even if we do things (like stay up all night talking) that sap our bodies of energy.
- Acceptance is the currency of friendship. Even when you disagree with beliefs or choices, it doesn’t lessen the emotional bond. Two can walk together even if they disagree when they accept that being right isn’t as important and being loved.
What are the characteristics of your longest, most meaningful friendship? What did I leave off my list?
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