Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
A couple of years ago, an English publication offered a prize for the best definition of a friend, and among the thousands of answers received were the following:
“One who multiplies joys, divides grief.”
“One who understands our silence.”
“A volume of sympathy bound in cloth.”
“A watch which beats true for all time and never runs down.”
But here is the definition that won the coveted prize: “A friend – the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”
Charles Spurgeon, a noted American commentator, once said: “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.”
What fun would life be if we had no friend to share it with? No one with whom to celebrate our successes, share our laughter, confess our disappointments?
Friends, indeed, are an essential ingredient for a full, happy life. Following are some tips to help you make and keep them.
Make friendship a priority. The people who always seem to have good friends are those who deliberately place friendship high on their list of priorities.
Be a friend. Ralph Waldo Emerson had said it right when he wrote: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Oftentimes, that means taking the first step and initiating deeper contact with another person.
Practice the art of self-disclosure. Nothing bonds two people more closely than self-revelation. When you take the risk of sharing with another person things that bring you joy and pain, the friendship deepens considerably. K. Alvin Pitt once said: “A true friend is one in whom we have confidence and to whom we will listen.”
Celebrate differences. Often the closest friends have as many differences as they do similarities. The finest friendships often cross religious, political, and social boundaries as people discover there can be great unity within diversity.
Robert Weiss, a social psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, explains it in this manner: “One recipe for friendship is the right mixture of commonality and difference. You’ve got to have enough in common so that you understand each other and enough difference so that there is something to exchange.”
Give love and support. A good friend is always someone whom you can count on when life gets rough. In difficult and depressing times, a real friend suspends judgements and provides a continuous flow of love and support so that the other person can heal and recover.
C. Neil Strait, a well-known American author, said: “The greatest service one can perform is to be a friend to someone. Friendship is not only doing something for someone, but it is caring for someone, which is what every person needs.”
Be loyal. A survey published in Psychology Today, an American publication, revealed that loyalty is one of the most desired qualities in a friend. Loyalty, someone once defined, is “faithfulness, and effort, and enthusiasm. It is common decency plus common sense.”
Franklin Owen offers these words about loyalty: “Friendship is loyal. A real friend is loyal through thick and thin. He will stand by you in the hour of need. He will help you when you are down. He will celebrate with you when you are up. Friend-ship is patience with one’s friend when he is right, patience with him even when he is wrong.”
Don’t expect perfection. A friend’s moods may change. A friend may make decisions you do not feel are wise. And a friend may act in ways that you would not. Nevertheless, strong and true friendship does not have a high perfectionist impulse attached to them.
Forgive and forget. Sometimes friends hurt us through words and deeds or by neglect. If the friendship is real, that person will sense the hurt caused and will give us an explanation or an apology. Rather than crossing the person of your list of friends, forgiving and forgetting is in order.
Listen to the advice of American journalist Judith Viorst: “When a friend fails to come through for us, but acknowledges it and regrets it and apologizes for it, we should – for the sake of friendship – forgive and forget. And when a friend explains how he or she honestly thought he/she was doing the right thing when he/she did something we think is really wrong, we may disagree but we also ought to – in order to save the friendship – forgive and forget.”
Forgiveness, after all, saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.
Listen with your heart. More than anything else, so many people need others to hear them when they are hurting. This means hearing beyond the words and withholding judgment. Poet Marian Evans, writing under the male pseudonym George Eliot, had a friend who was able to listen to this way. Evans wrote:
“Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words but to pour them all out, just as it is, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keeping what is worth keeping and then, with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
Friendship should not be threatened by honest criticism. Dr. Jose Rizal once remarked that “we need criticism to keep us awake.” And what does the Bible say about criticism and friendship? Proverbs 27:5-6 offers: “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
Be affirmative. Look for ways to make other people feel good about themselves. Be sincere and generous with praise and compliments. Friendships thrive, and people grow in an atmosphere that is positive. Dr. McGinnis writes: “If you train your mind to search for the positive things about other people, you will be surprised how many good things you can observe in them and comment upon.”
Finally, friendship takes time, energy, and commitment. Yet it is always worth the effort. Goethe said it all when he declared: “The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers, and cities; but to know someone here who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth an inhabited garden.”