Yesterday I met with an old friend. We have known each other since college, and while we have not seen each other in years, we have managed to stay in touch by phone, email and social media. It was great to talk with him and catch up on some of the significant events in each other’s lives.
My conversation yesterday has me thinking about true friendships that are deeply embedded in the soul. I fear that many people today are walking through life with a shallow substitute for real relationships.
1. Real Friendships Start with General Knowledge. The first step in solid friendships starts with getting to know the other person. This sounds like an easy step, but if you are like me, you like to talk about yourself too much. To develop the connections we desire, we must ask people about themselves. What do they like? What is their background? What are they feeling?
2. Real Friendships Go Past General Information. This second step is the most difficult, and I am afraid that is where many people stall. It is great that I know your name, your spouse, and your kids. It is a good start that I know where you live and where you work. But my knowledge of you is not that same as a friendship. In an age of social media, we can gather all kinds of facts about people, without ever really getting to know them.
3. Real Friendships Know Both Joy and Hurt. I define a true friend with two descriptors. First, they know what makes me laugh. They are in tune with what will bring me joy. They see a movie or comedian and think of me. There is an understanding of what I enjoy in life. Second, they know what makes me cry. They know what makes my soul hurt. They know when words are spoken that will hurt me. There is a clear of idea of topics that make me sad. Real friends have insight into my soul.
4. Real Friendships Endure. This one hit me just yesterday. A real friend is someone you can meet up with years later, and it is almost like no time has passed. There is a connection that exists that is truly beyond explanation. Maybe it comes from common interests and experiences or possibly it is just built on the past. Real friendships are forged over the anvil of time.
The question I find myself asking, “How many real friends do I have in my life?” Have I accepted surface levels of interaction as cheap substitutes for the real thing?
And what about you? We live in a world where there are more ways to stay connected with people, and yet loneliness grows. It is easy to blame society and even shout at other people about how they should include you in their lives. I am finding the best solution to loneliness is taking the initiative to invite other people into my life. We all need friends, but it will take a little work to get them.