Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
Just over a week ago I kept seeing and hearing the words invest and investment. In dreams and thoughts, I went round in circles trying to figure out why. It didn't feel like I was being led to buy a lottery ticket or start playing the stock markets, nothing financial. When one of my closest friends, Tim, came to town last Wednesday, it all clicked. We hadn't had a proper face to face in over eighteen months after he had moved back to America, but thanks to the Internet-driven world we live in, it has been easy to pass messages and stay both in touch and in tune with each other. What struck me was how much of a better place my life is in right now. Three years ago when he first met me I was a wreck, newly sober but hanging on by a thread. As I compared the then and now in my mind with him and a group of close friends at a little restaurant around the corner from the Eiffel Tower, I realised what a major impact he has had on my life. He invested so much time and patience at the beginning of our friendship and walked me over the coals of my past with tiny steps, never letting me go too far forward and never letting me go too far back, either, the honesty and openness making our journey that much more healthy and inclusive.
Being an addict means a life of secrecy, isolation, and the darkest of thoughts. I am still that addict but am finding deeper spiritual meaning in my surroundings and relationships. Being sober and moving forward with my life has allowed me to re-invest what others, like Tim, have put into me. Life is not to be done alone. It is also important to note that not all of the friendships we have are that of the soul-baring nature. Many of us may have circles of acquaintances that provide a different sense of support. It is essential, though, that we embrace meaningful friendships and conversations. Through my job, I meet a lot of people who are afraid of emotional intimacy and can open up more easily to me than those closest to them. It is never a one way street with intimate friendships. Sometimes, it is both sides that are unwilling to give their all for fear of being hurt or exposed. The best way to overcome this, in my experience, is to give more. Fear of failure, hurt, or not being accepted, holds us prisoners in our own hearts and ultimately leaves us trying to fill that hole with something else - gambling, drugs, booze, porn, food, affairs, work, take your pick. A deep and lasting friendship should be like a pilgrimage, a journey of moral and spiritual significance that is both selfless and reciprocal. Anais Nin put it beautifully ~
"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
Tim and I. Photo © Carson Nyquist
Here are five tips for being a better friend ~
- Take the time. Friendships are good for your health. If you feel too busy then it is a sure sign you need to carve out some time to connect. The support and views of a close friend can change your perspective on issues close to heart and relieve the pressure in an increasingly stressful world. We all need to be supported and understood.
- Nurture. Few friendships are hit with a lightning bolt of awesomeness at the very beginning. Being open and nurturing will help the seeds to grow and the friendship to blossom over time. Same can be true for older friendships too.
- Be the friend you would like to have.I know that people can be unreliable. Some may have bad habits or do things that annoy us. But if your friends have their nuances, what does that say about you? I try to constantly think about the ways I annoy people to the point of it driving me insane (I don't recommend it). What you can do is think about how your actions and words affect those closest to you.
- Be open-minded. Judging a person by their beliefs, dress sense, taste in music, colour, size, etc. will close more doors than it will open. Inclusion over exclusion.
- Respect yourself. Any deep friendship or relationship is a reflection of who you are. If you are afraid to be vulnerable, so will the other person. If you are too harsh or defensive, it will alienate others and they may respond in the same way. Be open to criticism (as long as it is expressed in a caring and constructive way) and use it to grow into a better person. Remember, if we cannot accept the person we are, how can we expect others to accept us?