Everyone would probably say they have friends. However, there are different levels of friendship to consider. An acquaintance is someone you know, whom you would probably enjoy meeting for lunch. A friend is someone youíve known for a significant period of time and with whom you generally enjoy spending time. A true friend is one who knows your entire family, understands the struggles with your children, listens when you need to talk, shares his or her feelings with you freely, and grieves with you when you hurt. Based on these analogies, how many true friends do you have?
I am blessed to have friends at all levels of the friendship spectrum. However, my mother was not so blessed. During the entire time I knew my mother, I can only think of two people that probably fit into the second category, but none that fit into the third category. The primary reason for this lack of true friends was my motherís inability to trust. In order to have true friends, you have to trust them with your feelings and your secrets. Unfortunately, my mother did not trust people in general. She was suspicious of everyone, even her own family, and would not share her feelings OR her secrets with anyone. She often made the comment to me and my sister that she was her own best friend and didnít need any others. This statement clearly epitomizes why my mother had no true friends. When my mother moved to the nursing home, the only frequent visitor she had was me. I did not visit her as a friend. I visited her because she was my mother and I felt it was my responsibility. When mother went to the hospital for a broken hip, I was her only visitor.
If you were in a nursing home or hospital, who would come to visit you? If the only people that come to mind are members of your family, where are your friends? Cultivating friendships is important to your health. When we share ourselves with another human being, we blossom and grow. Think about a plant in a garden. You can break off a branch, put it in a container of water, and the branch will grow roots. You now have an additional plant. The first plant is not injured by this giving of a branch, but continues to grow and flourish. Often when you prune a plant, it grows fuller and stronger. The same is true for us. When we give a piece of our heart to another person, we nourish growth in that person, while at the same time continuing to grow and flourish ourselves.
The older we become the more difficult it may be to find new friends. Our long-time friends may predecease us. Making friends takes effort. My mother was 91 years old when she died. Almost everyone she knew had died before her. However, once she believed the myth that she was her own best friend, she had no desire to cultivate any new friendships. I believe she was lonely for most of her life, but this was certainly true for the end of her life. No matter how old you may be, making and keeping friends is always possible if you are willing to share yourself. I encourage you to make a new friend todayónot just any friend, but one that will be a true friend for you for the rest of your life.