I only remember once in my life when I was completely without friends and only had the members of my immediate family to rely on. I was scared back then and overwhelmed with a future that revolved around 7 people. Fortunately my parents had moved for work and there was a network of church, work and neighbours that welcomed us and helped make the change manageable.
I know that I was heartbroken, having been wrenched from a world I knew and friends that I hung out with to one of a different language, culture and climate. I wish I knew then what I know now about making freindships that last instead of living in the fear that I couldn't make friends with someone in case I was wrenched away again to another place. I stayed lonely for a long time even though there with dozens of people around me wanting to be my friend.
A song came on the radio as I drove to work- one of Simon and Garfunkel's early love songs- actually a heartbreak.
I've built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries
Paul Simon (published in 1966)
Today, I have a friendship circle of a few trusted friends that I can say anything to. We are honest and supportive of each other recognising when we need building up.
I wondered what about those who don't have a friendship circle and when their heart is broken or not mended. Do the words of the song ring true for them?
How do people who are alone overcome sadness and develop resilience?
I wondered today what friendship really means and if there are ways that lonely people can make friendships
It seems uncanny, to me, that if we look back in History to the early writings of people who have lived more than 2000 years ago, these same feelings, emotions and experiences existed. More than that, they actually knew what they were!
In 350BC Aristotle (one of the most famous Greek philosophers) devoted a chapter to the topic of Friendships and the three types of friendships (Nicomachean Ethics available from Amazon Books)
1) Need, where both people derive some benefit from each other as in businesses or services. ‘I am friends with my hairdresser.’
2) Pleasure, where both people are drawn to the other’s wit, good looks, or other pleasant qualities. 'I am friends with the members of the soccer team'. 'He is my boyfriend'.
Both types of friendships are short-lived because one’s needs and pleasures are apt to change over time.
3) Friendship based on goodness, where both people admire the other’s goodness and help one another strive for goodness is the lasting friendship. Friendships of the good are ones where both friends enjoy each other’s characters as in “brotherly love”. This type of friendship lasts forever.
From a modern viewpoint, Celestine Chua (Director of Personal Excellence) suggests that this ratio may be 75/20/5 spilt, however, she also provides active ways to create and develop friendships such as:
- Realise that the fear of making friends is in your mind
- Start small with people you know
- Start going out to events and meetings
- Practice conversations about things you know
- Be open and honest- Be yourself
- Make an effort every day to speak to someone and to keep in touch
I can attest to these strategies to make new friends.
We all need friendship and I am grateful in this modern age for Facebook, Skype and other apps to keep in touch with friends.
No one should have to go through loneliness and heartbreak. Sure, heartbreak and trauma of loss can bring about feelings of unspeakable sadness, however, reaching out for friendship is a step towards finding that wholesome good relationship so often spoke about.
Today I am grateful for all three kinds of friendships in my life but most importantly for my good friends who hold me up in times of trouble and share my dreams without judgement.
What are you grateful for today?