Coincidentally, over the last few weeks, several ‘old friends’ have reappeared – how wonderful is that! We hadn’t quite lost touch but we haven’t really caught up with each other in a long time, until now.
And with each one, it has been a delight to talk again, and to share stories. It’s like settling back into a familiar comfy armchair, because we have just picked up the friendship where we left off: the familiarity, the ease of conversation, the affection.
It has made me reflect on how we build a friendship, how it grows into that comfy place that stays there even when there are long gaps – clearly this doesn’t happen by befriending on Facebook!
I started by looking up the original meaning of the word friend. It is formed from the past participle of the Old Norse word for to love, and means beloved, someone you join with in love and intimacy. So we don’t really build a friendship, do we: we find friends, those people we come across that we have some sort of instant connection with, and then we either nurture that connection or let it go.
To me, nurturing that connection means that we start by expressing in some way that feeling of connection, to check out if it is mutual. This may be verbally: ‘I think we could be friends..’, or just through showing our pleasure in their company.
It also means that, in the first place, we actively seek to spend time with the person, to get to know them, and allow them to know us. Now this may sound a bit like dating, but I think there is a fundamental difference. With dating, we want the other person to like us, so we will tend to show only our best side. When we are nurturing a friendship, we are looking to share our world and be accepted for who we really are, warts and all, and to offer the same degree of acceptance to the other person.
This implies a level of risk: we allow them to see our foibles, our weaknesses, not just our good bits. It also means that we accept their reality as well, because we are interested in the whole of their world, not just the parts that are similar to ours.
At the same time, there is a wondrous permission in true friendship, a level of mutual, acceptance that we can both thrive on. My friends see the worst of me and bring out the best in me, because we respond to each other from a place of love, not a place of obligation or pretence.
Through establishing this deeper level of getting to know each other, we strengthen that initial connection into a lasting bond between us. Then we have something that can last a lifetime, that endures even when there is a lack of contact for a while.
Friendships are special – they are based in love and shared values, not shared experiences or behaviours. We nurture them and grow them by being truly ourselves and allowing our friends to do the same.
So when you come across one of those connections, do some nurturing, grow the bond between you, and enjoy the richness it brings to your life.
Thank you, my friends!