But the subject has been on my mind and heart lately and I want to explore some definitions and thoughts on what friendship is, and what it is to have—or to be—a friend.
The most elemental definition I’ve ever seen is the title of Joan Walsh Anglund’s book, A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You. It was published in 1958 for children 4 to 7 years old. A friend is…someone who likes you. Simple. Direct. Easy to understand.
But as we all know, we grow older, and life takes twists and turns, our experiences cause us to make leaps and bounds. Or go backward. Or fall on our prats. Sometimes what we go through is, well, less than joyful. Here are some thoughts to keep your hearts and minds engaged in friendly paths as you find your way through the jungle.
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Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. --C. S. Lewis (1898-1967)
Who among us has not had a friend who kept us sane, even for a little while? Or who held our hand in a dark time? Who talked us down from a scary place—real or metaphorical—to continue living?
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Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over. --Octavia Butler (1947-2006)
If you have a friend, then you, yourself, are a friend. It’s a reciprocal relationship, not one-sided, but a meeting of equals. So if you are a friend, you know what it means to remain silent when they “hurl themselves into their own destiny.” Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But we know we can’t live other people’s lives for them, no matter how much we care, how much more experience we have, how clearly we can see the pitfalls they will face. We can “prepare to pick up the pieces,” and I would add, resist the temptation to say I told you so. Even if you never said it in the first place.
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One more idea:
We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence. -- Joseph Roux (French surgeon, 1780-1854)
Ignore the out-of-date pronouns and focus on the thought.
No one wants to lose a friend. Friends are more precious than silver and gold, than perfect gems, than all the possessions we can ever amass.
Yet, sometimes a friend is lost. To death, yes; but that is not the harshest loss. The loss that stabs our hearts and wrenches tears from our souls is the loss we have caused—or have been unable to prevent—for whatever reason.
John Donne (1572-1631) wrote, “Any man’s death diminishes me.” I would add, “Each friend’s loss takes a valuable part of me, and I’ll never regain it.”
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To send you off with a happier thought:
If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give. --George MacDonald (1824-1905)
Celebrate your friendships. They may not number in the hundreds or thousands, they may not be virtual friends you’ve never seen. True friends are the ones who know you, warts and all . . . .