By: Nancy Nicolazzo
It has been said that whatever is valuable requires energy and attention. I believe that is true and because I place a high value on friendship, I place much energy and attention on my friends. This article explores why friendships require energy and attention – why they require work.
From the time I was a little girl I knew that friendships were important and I wanted my relationships with my friends to be close. Perhaps this was because there was a lack of closeness with my immediate family. More than safety and love, I felt expectations and conditional acceptance. I struggled with friendships and believed I did not know the terrain of friendship.
As a child I remember watching people who were friends. It seemed that engaging in friendship was a way to share experiences, conversations and closeness. I wanted those things with my friends but I was not sure how to make that happen.
As I got older, friendship was still a mystery. Somehow I knew how to date, how to get along in school and how to survive within my family, but when it came to friendship, I felt other people knew something I did not. And then I went on a Buddhist retreat and learned about friendship, that there were different kinds of friendship – friendships based on utility, friendships based on pleasure and friendships based on love of the good.
Learning about friendship helped me to assess the types of friendships I was involved in. Most of my friends talked and I listened – and through that process I became lost within the friendship. I realized that I longed for friendships based on mutuality – along with listening, I wanted to be listened to. I also wanted friends who would be helpful, friends with whom I could enjoy pleasure and friendships based on love of the good.
Understanding what friendship is and can be made it possible to develop real friendships. And the development of those friendships has taken energy and attention. The work I put into friendships is based on the following:
1. Time and attention – I make spending time with friends a priority and I keep in touch with my friends between visits. I write emails, buy gifts and keep my friends in mind.
2. Listening and caring – I pay close attention to what my friends tell me as a way to support them emotionally and to show them that I care about them.
3. Giving and receiving – I enjoy giving my time and attention to my friends and I enjoy receiving the gifts they offer me. My friends provide a mirror for me – they reflect me back to myself so that I see myself more clearly and I do the same for them.
So, friendship takes work, but the work is worth it when the result is friendship.
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