Sunday, September 25, 2005


The importance of friends in our lives I think cannot be defined succinctly, cannot fully be comprehended as to its importance in our lives, and as such, can be, I think, taken for granted. People much more talented and word-smithy than I have undertaken this topic and there are books and articles written on the topic that cover it much better than I ever could. Even as I write this, I know how woefully inadequate anything I write will be in comparison.

The blessing of a true friend is just that -- a blessing. There is something magical, and perhaps even a bit mystical that happens with friendship. Like the miracle of the Grinch's heart expanding within his chest with the gift of giving, friendship makes one heart feel better than it can on its own. Being listened to, heard and understood, and offering those gifts in kind makes a good person better. Carl Jung said it this way: "The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed."

Not only can a good and true friend make you a better person, but the value comes in other immeasurable ways. You find a type of validation that you don't get with strangers, work associates or even good acquaintances. "In a friend you find a second self." (Isabelle Norton.)

Or the same sentiment is expressed this way: "True happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise; it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one's self, and in the next from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions." (Joseph Addison) We become people we cannot become on our own. Oh, I know I've already said that, but there truly is something wonderful that happens when you find someone with whom you can share your thoughts, hopes, fears, dreams. It really is as though by finding a second self, your own self enlarges and expands. You become more capable in goals and endeavors, and more able to help others.

The writers of South Park expressed the value of friendship this way: "I've learned that all a person has in life is family and friends. If you lose those, you have nothing, so friends are to be treasured more than anything else in the world." (Trey Parker and Matt Stone)

Can a high enough value ever be placed on friendship? Certainly not monetarily. And you can't measure or value spiritual and emotional growth, so perhaps that is why we struggle with expressing the importance of friends. It can't be expressed properly because it can't be valued in human, mortal terms of measurement. Only the soul truly knows the worth of a true friend.

I have been blessed in my life with many wonderful friends. Some have lasted for a shorter time than others, especially when I was younger and perhaps it was easier to take all of those for granted. In fact, as I've grown older, and (hopefully) matured, friends and the blessings they bring into my life become more precious and valued. When a friendship is lost, for whatever reason, it makes it that much more painful because I believe that I've reached a point in my life where no friendship is trivial. And understanding all that other stuff about being able to speak spirt-to-spirit and heart-to-heart in ways that only the soul understands and values makes it nearly unacceptable. And AND if a true friend really is a second self, losing a friend is like a kind of amputation. I don't want it. It hurts. It's a part of me that's lost, not just the other person. So when I've had no choice in the matter, well, that really bites.
There is a great scene in the movie "Beaches" with Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler. There has been a rift in their friendship for several years, and they finally have a moment where CC, Bette's character, is forcing Hillary (Barbara Hershey) to confront the fact that she has refused to speak to CC for many years.

Hillary:I don't even remember what it was I was mad about and I don't care. Whatever it was that you did, I forgive you.

CC Bloom: What I did? You and your lousy letters. Just to get one of them made me special even before I opened it. All your crappy stories, all your big dreams.

Hillary: I didn't know that.

CC Bloom: Well, what the hell did you know? Did you know how bad things were for me? No, because you wouldn't even open my letters. If you had even answered one, just one! Told me what a jerk I was, anything! But you didn't. You took your friendship away without even discussing it with me.
I know exactly how CC feels. Like her, I have specific ideas of what comprises a friendship. I believe there must be mutual respect, communication, and a certain amount of time invested. I know that events come and go, but friends can be constant, if that friendship is nurtured. Nurturing doesn't have to be a full-time job, but there is an investment required. With no investment, nothing can be earned. I don't believe that friendships are an even 50/50 split of time, just as with any relationship. With any relationship that matters, neither party will count the investment percentage. But both parties will emerge better people because of time that's been invested. And if there is no investment on one side, just like with CC and Hillary, a breaking point is reached, and the decision must be made to either make a clean break and move on, or resolve differences and move on.

I understand that friendships come and go. I know that sometimes you become friends with someone for brief moments for very specific reasons and that some of them aren't meant to last for this entire lifetime. I get all of that. But that doesn't lessen the hurt when one is taken away from me, by that friend, prematurely and without my permission.

It's hard to make an offering of friendship and have it rejected. But I know that I'd be willing to accept the friendship were it ever offered again. But I don't know that it will be. And that, more than anything, is what bites. I do not want to accept that it is totally over, but I fear it is. The problem is, that decision has been taken away from me, and I don't like that. But there's only so many times and ways I can continue to offer my friendship up before the comparable amount of rejection makes me unwilling to make one final offer. I want to make that one final offer, but I am human, and as such, despise rejection.

Perhaps it really doesn't matter that it's over if I take this last quote to heart: "Do not keep on with a mockery of friendship after the substance is gone - but part, while you can part friends. Bury the carcass of friendship: it is not worth embalming." -- William Hazlitt

To all my friends, past, future and present, thank you for all the lessons you've taught me, the love you've freely given, and the growth in me you've encouraged. I love you all. After all is said and done, the blessing in this can be the lesson to learn to forgive more easily in the midst of feeling wronged and misunderstood, and to not take anyone for granted, because you just don't know how long it will last.

I hope I can freely return the friendship to you that you have given me.

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