Saturday, November 19, 2011

Inventory of Life - Friends

Friends are some of the most important people in our lives.  I feel sorry for anyone who has not experienced good friendship.  Life is lonely without friends.  I have been blessed with good friends wherever I have lived (and I have lived in many places!)

As we all know, we don’t have a liberty to choose our family, but we do have the liberty to choose our friends. Many times our friends are closer to us than our family. We will tell intimate details of our lives to our friends rather than our family. 

There is a popular sayings about friends: “You have friends for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. 

We encounter people in our lives who sometimes help us through the darkest of our hours and then dissappear.  They were there for only one reason - to help us. I have felt so many times a sense of loss in meeting such people.  But, I think these souls are never meant to stay in our lives; it could be a debt they are repaying from a previous life or a divine person who appeared to help us.

Some friends are seasonal.  I remember during my Ph.D. days, I could not have had such a good experience without the group of my very close knit friends.  We depended on each other socially, professionally and personally.  Yet now, most of us have moved on in our lives leaving the past as pleasant memories.

My lifetime friends? Well.........there are some and I still have some life to live.

Sometimes we have a variety of friends to fulfill the different aspects of our lives; some to socialize with, some to watch movies with, some so that the kids can socialize etc. Our needs and requirements keep changing as we are growing and so people keep coming in and out of our lives. The ones that "click" - stay, the superficial ones disappear quickly.

Friendships can be so rewarding as well as challenging just like all relationships.  But if a friendship is strong, it will meet all the challenges and keep growing.  A true friend will adjust, tolerate and be there through good and bad times without asking for anything in return (although its never a good idea to have a one sided relationship - one person will get tired of giving all the time.)

Speaking for myself: I have many friends and I care about them all and will help out as much as I can; but only a few of them really care about me - and those are my true friends.  Living alone has its own challenges, so when I become friends with a person, my friendship grows on the basis of respect, dependability and trust.  As time goes on, all other pieces should fit in place.  I know I am not perfect, and I don’t expect my friends to be perfect either, but if certain qualities are not there then I know that the friendship will also be fragile.  There are qualities I will compromise with and some that I will not.

Here are the qualities I think are valuable in a friend.  These work both ways - I myself should also have these qualities to be a good friend.  (These days you don't even have to live in the same city to be good friends.)
  • Dependability - Be there for for each other.  What is the point of a friend if they are not there for you?
  • The ability to listen - Listen to each other so we understand each other.
  • Trust - The ability to confide in each other with complete trust.  I really don’t want them to gossip about me.
  • Honesty - Goes right along with trust.  Lies can destroy any kind of relationship and freindships are held together by invisible bonds. Once broken, that bond is tough to remake. 
  • Non judgemental – accept each other as they are without wanting to change them in a selfish way.
  • Support – Support each other emotionally and physically. In these days of increased communication there is no excuse for being an absentee friend. 
  • Inspirational – Help each other grow; we should be able to learn new things from each other as the friendship develops.
It seems like there are too many qualities needed to be a good friend, but in reality if you really care for someone's friendship you will adjust and be the kind of person your friend needs. Otherwise .... was never meant to be.   If you look carefully these qualities are also that of a good person :-)

There is also another popular quote “You are known by the company you keep”. 

Nothing can be more right than this. You are influenced more by friends than family (peer pressure rules!!).  If you keep good company, that is how you will become. So for your personal self-development you should want to surround yourself with people who can help you go forward in your life, rather than backward. If your friendship is leading to depression, anger or frustration then better look for another friend. These are not the habits one should develop in life.

Our life is given to us to grow into better person. You get your education to learn new things in order to make your life more disciplined, be able to support yourself in this life, and live within the community while fulfilling all your civic duties.  Your friend should inspire you to do all these things.

A very wise Indian, Chanakya said, “One should not have a fool for a friend or wife, both will ultimately lead to sorrow.

One thing I have not mentioned above is gender in friendships. Women have very different friendships than men do. Women tend to view friendships as connecting with each other.  Talks turn into therapy sessions and women will share almost anything and everything with their good friend. Their friendships are emotional and are entirely based on trust and loyalty. Men may not share so much. They are not as communicative and tend not to share personal and intimate part of their life. They tend to shut off whereas women end up talking about stuff to get it out of their system.

One last thing about gender: men and women can never be "just friends" - that is my firm belief. There will always be that physical attraction. And if one or both are married - to other people, then the spouse might get the wrong impression even though its all innocent. There is that occasional "work wife" or "work husband" with whom one can discuss all their "work" related issues which the spouse may not understand. But I think that can get also into the danger zone - simply because men and women cannot be "just friends".

Take this quiz to see if you understand how men and women communicate differently.

In conclusion:
Friendship is a strange relationship: it has no religious boundaries, no educational restrictions, in fact friendship has no restrictions whatsoever. It is a pure relationship between two people who want and do the best for each other all the time. Each friendship is unique, so no two friendships can be alike. Each friend is also different: each different friend satisfies a different need for the one person. Friends can bring out the best in each other. True friendship is rare. So if you find a friend you connect well with – hold on to them!!

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