Most of my friendships are those that I’ve been fortunate to have had for many many years.
Whenever I’m asked the question whether I have many friends, my answer has always been “few.” I’m fortunate to know many wonderful people and well-wishers, but my friends’ circle has always been small. This has been the case since my nursery days when the very first friend I had made was, Bindu. We both used to travel on the same bus together from nursery to grade 10. Over the years, I got to know many more amazing people, but there were few whom I would term as “friends”.
Having Few Friends as a Conscious Choice.
I deeply cherish my friendships and friends and one of the ways I’ve been able to maintain my friendships is by having few friends. I think maintaining friendships takes time and efforts (at least for me). The more friends we have, the more efforts and time we need to give each of those relationships. So the question to those who have a huge circle of friends is – are the friends they consider as friends, friends or are they, well-wishers? One of the misunderstandings that creep up into friendships is when the expectation of friendship is faced with the harsh reality that the “friend” whom we thought of as a friend is actually only a genuine and caring well-wisher of ours.
Being Genuine and Honest with Friends.
I enjoy being myself with my friends and look forward to them being their true honest selves with me too. I’m known to be admittedly too blunt for some, but I believe that way, people know me for whom I am rather than wondering the sincerity of my interactions with them. The less phony we are, the easier and healthier our relationships with our friends (even people) are. How we say what we say is crucial not just in the case of friends, but family and well-wishers too. If our friends do not prefer our honesty then it is a reminder for us to assess ourselves in the way we communicate with them. Are we communicating using the right words and the tone? Is our body language in harmony with our verbal communication? To be in a friendship where we need to be wary of offending our friend, not only places an immense strain on the relationship but a situation where we need to ask a very important question regarding the relationship.
Are they the friends we wish to have in our lives?
Making Efforts to Solve Issues in Friendships.
Giving a chance to work out the misunderstandings in friendship is crucial for its health and future. It needs patience and generosity too.
No other example comes to my mind with sheer clarity than the wisdom my son taught me several years ago when he was 11 years old.
My son had just moved into sixth grade and into a new school. On the very first day itself, he was thrilled to make a friend and they were soon the best of pals. For some uncanny reason, their relationship changed with the arrival of a new bunch of children in the class. It became a matter of concern when one day my son returned from school and told me that he was slapped by his “friend” who had picked on him as he ate in the school canteen.
The reasons for the fight seemed so trivial and had no logic that I realized it was just a case where the mere desire to bully appeared to be the goal. My maternal efforts to convince my son of my reasons to initiate a discussion between this boy and their class teacher was not welcome. Despite my reluctance, I respected his wishes and watched the situation for any signs of further escalation. Their friendship had become filled with such animosity that fist fights between would them would arise and it would upset the class and teacher. It soon reached such a point that I was called and warnings were issued to stabilize the fight. My son predictably was most upset since he had really considered his friend to be his best friend. He neither knew what had gone wrong nor why he was being bullied by his best friend. His interest in school declined and his grades too were predictably affected that year.
The following year, in the first week of school, my son came home with a euphoric gleam in his eyes. He was deliriously happy and said that his friend apologized to him and wished to be friends again with him. The concerned Mother that I was, I did not want him to resume his friendship. According to me, it was undoubtedly a toxic relationship that my son could do without. Besides he had undergone a lot of challenges because of this boy and was the risk of giving the boy another chance worth it?
Sitting down with me, my 11 years old patiently explained to me that all of us can make mistakes and we need to give a chance when someone apologizes with remorse. It sounded like what I would have no hesitation in convincing others, but in this case?
My parental sentiments were clouded by concern and anxiety for my son’s welfare. I had my misgivings and merely told him to trust his old “friend” with caution.
I was thankfully wrong in my concerns about that boy and my son’s friendship with him.
Today my son is 18 years old, and their friendship has not just withstood that turbulent phase but gone on to be one of the best friendships he has enjoyed. My son in his young and innocent maturity had taught me a humble yet powerful lesson in generosity and trust.
He had taught me that if we can resolve differences or misunderstandings in friendships, it is indeed worth the efforts. But whether I would be able to consider a friendship with the same level of trust, warmth, and maturity after the trust was broken once for no obvious mistake on my part, I honestly don’t know.
Keeping in touch matters.
I don’t think that to maintain healthy friendships or even relationships with well-wishers we need to regularly speak to them to maintain the relationships. Remembering them on their special days like birthdays, anniversaries and meeting them for coffee or a movie are all ways to keep the communication alive. As far as friends are concerned, occasionally telling them how much they mean to you is a beautiful expression of the respect and affection you have for them. In all these years, I’m grateful to note that most of the friendships that have meant a lot to me have survived.
Have Friends of all Ages.
One of the best ways to cultivate a wonderful and varied group of friends is to have friends belonging to varied ages. I have friends who are younger than me, older than me and yes, also my age.
Each of my friends shares wisdom and insight that is unique to their age and life experience. At the same time, their age has never been a factor that affects the friendship. Friendship is all about respect, affection, and abundant goodwill.
Why consider Culture, Language, Religion, Gender, and Race in Friendships?
As an Indian girl who grew up in the 1980s, I was fortunate to have grown in a home environment where I was encouraged to get to know people. During childhood, I would be taken for numerous visits to see family friends and relatives. To my grumpy and reluctant pleas of why I need to see them since they have no children my age and I have no one to talk to, my Dad would encourage me to know and make friends with people based on their character rather than on age or gender.
Wherever we went, my brother and I were reminded by him to make efforts to know people and not give a thought to the country they belong, the language they speak, the color of their skin, their background or their race.
We never experienced any parental prejudices and biased assumptions in our family environment. My brother and I were encouraged to form a tolerant view of the world and the people who live on it.
I have always, fortunately, enjoyed the liberty to know and befriend anyone, thanks to my wonderful parents. In fact, I’m not sure how many ladies my age may have enjoyed the freedom I’ve enjoyed when I grew up.
Friends are significant in our lives for their acceptance and understanding of our personalities. The comfort they provide by being good listeners, positive critics and providing happiness and joy through their presence in our existence is immense.