Friends are the best. This week this truth has become truer than ever for me because I’ve heard from and spent precious time here in San Miguel with a number of dear friends, new and old, who enrich my life. In this month-long season of family-centric celebrations and traditions, stretching from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I’ve been reminded of how treasured my family-of-friends is to me.
Historically, I’ve learned, philosophers and social researchers have placed friendship on the back seat of their studies, putting romantic love and marriage up front. But lately, it seems, things are changing. The value of true friendship is being recognized for what it is: Invaluable.
According to Lydia Denworth, author of the new book, Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond, having good, strong friendships is as important as diet and exercise, so it’s something one needs to prioritize.
“If you are forever canceling on your friends or failing to make a point of seeing them or talking to them or interacting with them,” Denworth says, “then you are not being a good friend and you are not maintaining a strong relationship…. Friendship does take some time, but that’s kind of good news because (mostly) hanging out with your friends is fun” (1).
The friendship metaphor that has worked best for me over the years is gardening. Friendships take some tending, as gardens do: watering, weeding, sometimes some mulching; always a healthy amount of sunshine and good earth.
I am blessed, I feel, with many friendships — decades long as well as months-new. Many of these friends are among you, my WOW readers. This is one sure way, I’ve found, I can reach out over the miles and oceans and stay in touch — keep the garden watered.
Another expert on the subject of friendship, Robert Puff, PhD, writing in Psychology Today, says, “Having solid friendships is important for two main reasons: First, they make life more enjoyable. We get to share the beautiful aspects of life with people whom we love, which can enrich our everyday experiences. Second, our friends help us through the difficult times. Having friends to support us through hard times can make unimaginably difficult situations seem more tolerable” (2).
I often think, Where would I be without my friends? Probably no longer alive, I’m sure. When I was going through the worst experience of my life – when my daughter was missing for twelve years and the pain of this made death seem like an appealing alternative — dear friends talked me down from the ledge, so to speak. Their words of love and care redirected me. Our friendships endure, and I am eternally grateful to them.
Psychologist Marisa Franco, writing in her new book, Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make – and Keep – Friends, argues that friends often fulfill us even more than other relationships can.
“Don’t wait for a calamity to rock you into realizing friendship is priceless,” Franco writes. “Engrave friendship on your list. Make being a good friend a part of who you are, because a deep and true core that needs to belong lies within us all” (3).
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The best, most comprehensive article I found on this fascinating and important subject was “Making Good Friends,” by Lawrence Robinson, Anne Artley, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., published by HelpGuide.org (4). Here are some of their final tips:
- Be the friend that you would like to have. Treat your friend just as you want them to treat you. Be reliable, thoughtful, trustworthy, and willing to share yourself and your time.
- Be a good listener. Be prepared to listen to and support friends just as you want them to listen to and support you.
- Give your friend space. Don’t be too clingy or needy. Everyone needs space to be alone or spend time with other people as well.
- Don’t set too many rules and expectations. Instead, allow your friendship to evolve naturally. You’re both unique individuals, so your friendship probably won’t develop exactly as you expect.
- Be forgiving. No one is perfect and every friend will make mistakes. No friendship develops smoothly, so when there’s a bump in the road, try to find a way to overcome the problem and move on. It will often deepen the bond between you.
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References (and deeper reading on the subject):
(1) “Why Your Friends Are More Important Than You Think”:
(2) “The Importance of Friendship”:
(3) “How to Make the Lasting Friendships You Want”:
(4) “Making Good Friends”: