One of the life’s greatest blessings is to have friends who we can count on and share anything with. With the passage of time, the fabric of most friendships starts to wear thin, but some do keep lifelong friendships. To have a dependable friend is the next best thing to having a loyal partner you [actually] love.
I meet so many young people whose lives completely revolve around their friends. They go to great lengths to keep their friends happy often by doing things they ordinarily wouldn’t do. Sometimes, they call it peer pressure. One time someone asked me, “How do I know who is my real friend?” I thought this question deserved attention.
Let me share with you a small anecdote by Gyokuko Carlson taken from The Hidden Lamp.
Myo-on Maurine Stuart was leading a one-day retreat, and one of her students was soon to ordain as a priest. The student was walking behind Maurine during kinhin, or walking meditation, when she saw another woman start to wobble and fall. Without thinking, the student reached out her hand to assist the other woman. Maurine whacked the student’s hand hard, twice. The other woman didn’t fall.
The next morning, as the student was pouring tea for breakfast, Maurine turned to her, “Do you want to know why I hit you yesterday?”
“Yes,” she said.
“You were being too helpful. You have to let people find their own balance. Don’t be a crutch for them.”
The student bowed deeply.
I think this is the essence of friendship. A good friend is someone who will catch you when you fall but not be a crutch. Friendship doesn’t mean that you never challenge the other person or only agree to whatever they want to do or say. It is about expressing your honest opinion but respecting their right of making choices they see fit. When you be a crutch, you actually impede their growth. A pupa never turns into a butterfly without resistance, a seed never becomes a sapling without cutting through the resistance of earth.
The one who blindly agrees with you just so you are happy, or the one who is only happy if you do things the way they want, such a person is not your friend because true friendships are forged in freedom and thrive on a sense of equality. Any relationship where one person is constantly on his or her toes to please the other person, will one day fall apart. Without fail. Because it’s not practical and soon it’ll get very tiring. Agreeing to disagree is how two friends end any undesirable argument.
A true friendship offers the personal space to lead the life you have chosen for yourself. And the only way to have a good friend, a lifelong friend, is to be one. Ralph Waldo Emerson had said something along those lines.
I don’t mean to make sweeping generalizations but I’ve observed that, compared to men, women are generally better at keeping lifelong friendships. When two male friends meet, they may talk a great deal about sports, politics, automobiles, gadgets, business ideas etc. but little about themselves, about things going on in their lives, stuff that’s really bothering them.
Two very good male friends can meet, watch a game of cricket for a day over a few drinks, and not speak a sentence to each other. They may feel temporarily fulfilled. But, when they go home after meeting, little healing has taken place because they got nothing off their chest.
On the other hand, when two female friends have a day out, they may talk about shopping and all, but there’s room to talk about each other too. They tend to share what’s going on in their lives (if they are true friends). It’s one the primary reasons why friendships can be transformational because you get heard without being judged. And that’s what a true friend is: someone you trust and who listens to you without judging you.
A wife came home really late into the night and was confronted by her husband.
“Where were you all this time?” he asked, suspiciously.
“I was out with my best friend.”
“I don’t have to tell you her name.”
Unconvinced, he called all six of her girlfriends but each one said she wasn’t with her. Yet, he let it go thinking there might be something she didn’t want to share at this stage.
A mere one week later the husband came home at 3 in the morning. He was drunk and crashed on the bed. A few hours later when he woke up, she asked him the same question.
“I went out with my best friend last night.”
“I don’t have to tell you his name.”
She took the numbers of his ten best friends and began calling them. Every single one of them said, “Yes, of course, he was with me. He left very late.” One friend went the extra mile and confirmed that her husband was still asleep in his home.
You borrow your own meaning of a true friend from the joke above.
Good friends respect each other’s choices and personal space. They are like the assorted flowers in a bunch. Each one enhances the beauty and appeal of the bouquet. Each part makes the whole beautiful without taking over the whole.
If you are blessed with a good friend or friends, don’t let them go. I’m not saying you cling to them either. Do learn to value your friendship though. You know why? We can’t retain what we don’t value. It’s a short life that’s passing by at a pace much faster than we care to accept.
It’s not worth it (ever) to keep grudges in your heart and wreck your peace. This precious life becomes an enormous burden then. Tides rise in the sea periodically but the sea does not forsake the waves.
Similarly, differences and disagreements in a friendship doesn’t mean you abandon your friends. Have a bigger heart and you’ll quickly rise above the mistakes of your loved ones. As I wrote earlier, your life is only as beautiful as the relationships you keep. With others, with yourself.
Each moment of your life is like a drop in the ocean. As each drop has the potential to become an alluring pearl, each moment has the promise to be a memory of infinite beauty.
Our life is only as worthwhile as the memories we have of all that we may have said, done, thought or felt. Let’s fill it with good stuff.
Befriend it. Value it. Love it so it may love you back.
Art of Meditation
Free yourself from suffering and live life to the fullest. Learn the yogic technique of meditation in 4 days (and master it over a lifetime)
When we hear the phrase, ‘true friendship’, most of us immediately think of the beautiful platonic relationships in our lives. But true friendship can be found with the most unlikely beings – like our own mind. The questions below offer insight into the different kinds of true friendship and how, ultimately, we are our own best friend.
How can I build a true friendship with my mind?
In a social system, most people have friends. Some people have true friends, many have many friends but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are true friends. You would only really know who your friend is when you are helped by them in the hour of your need. Friends foster and grow in a harmonious environment. Your enemies automatically diminish in that environment.
An introspection on your inner world, your thoughts, your mind is the first step to forming a true friendship with your mind. A friendship with your mind is not just a platonic relationship – it encompasses all relationships we have experienced in the external world. Read more here.
Is the only true friendship in my life with myself?
Oscar Wilde once said, “Some people cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” Which one are you? I’m not talking about your impact on others. You may or may not be able to bring joy to them for their happiness is more dependent on their preferences than your offerings. This is true of a platonic relationship or romantic relationship.
I’m referring to happiness in an individual context, I’m alluding to your impact on yourself. Are you happy in your own company? This is the skill of happiness. And if you master this skill, you master the truest of true friendships – the one with yourself. Read more here.
Is it possible to experience a perfect true friendship?
Sometimes in wanting too much, you lose what you have. Sometimes, you want pasta but your friend wants Thai red curry. Okay… I suppose. Sometimes, you’ll have disagreements, at times things won’t go your way. And that’s okay too. You still stick together without judging each other. That’s what true friendship is about.
The more you are in harmony with others, with the universe, the greater peace you experience at heart. There is no ideal platonic relationship or romantic relationship. It is only what you make of it. Read more here.
Is there a relationship that surpasses true friendship?
It is fair to expect love in return of love. It is normal to desire acknowledgement of our efforts or recognition of our talents and work. A true friendship, other platonic relationships and romantic ones too, thrive when people reciprocate in kind.
The spirit of service, however, is an entirely different matter. Service expects nothing in return other than the well-being of the one we are serving. True service requires absolute selflessness, something even beyond altruism, for in service, the benchmark is not on whether you are acknowledged or special. Instead, your goal is to devote everything you’ve got to serve the cause that matters to you. Read more here.
On the path of meditation, how is a true friendship with the mind formed?
The art of taming your mind requires that you build a healthy and functional relationship with your mind. The joy you then experience is the same as having a beautiful relationship with your loved ones. You begin to experience a true friendship.
When a certain thought is raging, we can’t just hammer at our mind and deliver relentless blows of instructions (shut-up mind and let me meditate), self-doubt (will I ever be able to tame this thing?) or, guilt (why can’t my mind ever be quiet?).
You must love yourself enough to not defile yourself, you must value yourself so you don’t ignore what your body and mind need, you must treat yourself with respect because without these things, it will be impossible to develop a kindful relationship with yourself. Read more here.