A very personal event that impacted me profoundly some months ago has caused me to realize what true friendship looks like. You would think at my age I would have a pretty good grasp of what makes up a meaningful relationship. But I am finding that I have a lot to learn.
I had an experience that was personally discouraging and unsettling. And it to top it off, it was scary too. What did I learn about friendship?
· I knew immediately that there were people with whom I would not share any aspect of this situation. This is the case even with people I consider friends. It’s not necessarily a reflection of their character. There are just a few people I trust at that level. If your friend is struggling, can you be trusted?
· I learned that people can be so kind and supportive. It was nice to be on the receiving end of compassion and support. Are you doing everything you can to support your friends?
· None of the people I shared my challenge with criticized me. When you are under a lot of stress, shame is never too far away. Shame lurks in the shadows like a thief. He wants to steal your self-worth and run away with it. Are you allowing shame to rob your friends while you stand there and watch? You could be their only protection against shame.
· I found that my real friends truly felt my pain. Their level of empathy is hard to describe. But I felt real empathy. There was no hint of a condescending attitude. I hurt, so they hurt. Are you willing to enter your friend’s world? Are you willing to truly mourn with those who mourn? Are you willing to feel their pain?
· Real friends keep confidences. You don’t have to wonder. You don’t have to tell them: “Now this is confidential. Don’t repeat it.” I never tell my friends that, because they don’t need to be reminded. Are you known for diligence in keeping confidences?
· My friends didn’t tell me they were praying for me. I already knew they were…
· Most importantly…my friendship with these select individuals did not change as I shared very personal and sensitive information. They still care about me. They still love me. I am so thankful. And I am inspired to love deeply and from the heart.