Every single day I express gratitude for my friends.
While I don’t have hundreds of friends on social media, I do have a small group of close friends who are very dear to me. Some of these friends live close by and others live far away on other continents, but my life is richer and more meaningful because of all of them.
There are friends and there are ‘friends’
I value the quality of the friendships I have now because I know what it’s like to have ‘friendships’ that aren’t healthy or mutually beneficial.
In the past I’ve had the experience of being with ‘friends’ where I’ve felt empty and lonely, envious or competitive. After these encounters I’d feel regretful for how I’d behaved and/or embarrassed about the things I’d felt or what I’d said. Sometimes I’d feel tired and sad because the time together hadn’t been warm or reciprocal. I didn’t like the fact that we weren’t bringing out the best in one another.
This is not how genuine friendships are meant to be
These seemingly simple words give us insight into the potential that good friendships can have for us:
“True friends are even as skilled physicians…” Abdu’l-Baha
A physician is someone who is skilled in the art of healing and who knows what remedies you need to feel better. A doctor who is worth their calling has the time and patience to listen to you in order to understand you and your life. They’re interested in knowing the whole picture so they can support you to get back to balanced health and well-being.
Ideally, your doctor isn’t just there to medicate you when you become sick, but rather to maintain your health so that you’re less likely to get sick.
Those who are close to you should be ‘true friends’ who act as ‘skilled physicians’ in your life
Take some time to reflect on the quality of your own friendships and ask yourself:
- Are you able to be authentic, sincere and genuine?
- Do you feel better, happier and more fulfilled after you’ve been with your friends?
- Is your friendship one of love, kindness, consideration, respect, acceptance, mutual affection and wanting the best for one another?
- Are you able to share what’s in your heart and know that your privacy will be respected?
- Do you ‘get’ one another?
- Do you both have the opportunity to talk and to be heard, as needed?
- Do you feel that you can count on one another?
- Is there the sincerity and trust to be able to work through misunderstandings?
- Do you help one another to get to the truth of things?
- Do you spend time together for the joy of it and not from duty and obligation?
A good way to ensure that your friendships are meaningful, supportive and enriching is to be the sort of friend that you’d like to have
Practice being a ‘skilled physician’ to your own friends as this will change the energy of the current relationship. Doing this has the potential to raise the quality of your friendships so that you’re both being ‘skilled physicians’, helping one another to be better, happier and more balanced.
It also allows ‘friendships’ that aren’t mutually nurturing to gradually fade away if they aren’t doing either of you any good. The benefits of genuine friendships are priceless so it’s well worth persevering to foster and maintain them – and it’s also worth letting them go if you’re just going through the motions.
True friends help you in the long run
The longest study ever done on human beings proves that the support structure of good friends is one of the most important factors in longevity, fulfillment and mental sharpness. It showed that it isn’t the number of contacts and friends you have or whether you’re in a committed relationship – but the quality of these relationships that matters.
My friends are an ongoing support to me and a reminder of qualities that I aspire to develop
Some of the many things I appreciate in my friends are their kindness and understanding, unconditional love and ongoing encouragement, mature wisdom, stimulating conversation and deep insights, humour and laughter, courage and steadfastness, fierce love for their children, sincere commitment to service of others, a simple and ordered life, prayers on my behalf, supporting me over troubled and difficult times, generous hospitality and delicious food, patience and lack of judgement when I’m stuck or being obtuse, pointing me in the right direction when I can’t think straight, always picking up where we left off whenever we connect – and for sharing their hearts and lives with me.
To my dearly loved friends, the kindred spirits in my life, wherever you are in the world – thank you for your friendship and for being in my life.