Over the years I have been blessed with great friends but I’m not sure that I have always appreciated just how great they are/were.
The proverb says, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.’ That may be a bit harsh but I think many of us are so tied-up with our daily existence & busy lives that we become too familiar with our friends & loved-ones, to the extent that they are often invisible. So, we do unwittingly treat them with contempt.
One of my greatest weaknesses over the past few years in particular is the perception that I don’t really matter to others. This isn’t some sort of attention-seeking behaviour; it is a very real belief. Some of that has been learned from painful experiences in my life; some is from being seemingly invisible in a group of friends I thought I knew; some is from being unable to determine where or how I fit in; some is from friendships & relationships that turned-out to be destructive.
Compounding this belief was a perception that I didn’t really need to bother those friends because life was quite good; I could cope on my own & so I tended to keep my distance, not wanting to interfere or burden others.
Then came the great awakening: serious illness.
Suddenly I couldn’t do everything on my own; suddenly I needed people to help me where I couldn’t help myself; suddenly I began to realise the real value of true friendship.
Being on the receiving of what I call ‘commodity friendship‘ (pick it up, use it, throw it away) is a very painful experience & one which makes me shy away from asking for help in case I get a rejection.
However, having no option but to ask people to support me has been a real eye-opener for me on what real friendship is about & also the number of friends I have so often mis-read!
I have rediscovered that although I don’t get it right every time, people still love me. I’ve discovered that when illness turns me into someone I hate & others experience the negative effects of that, true friends see through the illness to what’s left of me inside & they love me. Don’t get me wrong; when I am bad I am not a comfortable person to be around, especially if various insecurities surface which may cause me to be intense, withdrawn, negative, even without hope. In these situations I see that being a true friend may mean seeing through the outer smoke screen & committing ourselves to others despite those problems in the knowledge (sometimes hope) that our efforts & availability will make a real difference to the person we’re helping.
Sometimes being a friend actually involves saying, “I’m really sorry, but I don’t think I can help you in this situation” which is never an easy option.
You see, I think the trouble with true friendship & relationship is that they may also be spelt E-F-F-O-R-T or even C-O-M-M-I-T-M-E-N-T.
They are is a great gifts but they do have a cost associated with them & I think that is important.
We cannot really understand what something is like unless we’ve been there or experienced it ourselves. I’m definitely not suggesting we go out & deliberately try to experience anxiety or depression so that we can be helpful! But what I am saying is that if we are prepared to take that risk, along with the possibility of misunderstanding or rejection, we will see results that are far beyond our greatest expectations. Friendship & relationship require time (a commodity that is increasingly short in the busyness of our lives) & commitment (a dirty word for many as it gets in the way of what we want to do).
An interesting piece of research recently suggested that when we give or when we compliment others, we receive a huge amount back ourselves. We should not do things just to receive back; that is the wrong motivator & will lead to untold problems for ourselves & others involved. What I AM saying is that what we often see initially as ‘cost‘ actually ends up being ‘rewarded‘ many times over.
So perhaps I should re-title this entry The Reward With Friendship & Relationship.
What I will say is big public thank you to the friends that, through their willingness to take the risk & support me, are teaching me that I do matter & in doing so have kept me here.
That is a sacrifice I hope that I can make for others.
Until next time …