Sometimes, I have to stop myself from categorizing my friends.
There’s the “networking friend,” someone I meet during events. We exchange business leads or play catch-up with what’s new in each other’s lives. Then, there’s the business colleague or associate — someone that I work with. I also have “personal friends,” a.k.a. my confidantes who share secrets.
I prefer to say that someone is “my friend.” I say this with pride.
“Hi, Karen. I am honored and privileged to introduce you to my friend, Ora, whose grace under pressure inspires me to become more patient — and who I admire for her event management expertise. Ora, this is my friend, Karen. Her current career is a mystery to me — but that’s not as important as her caring nature. I’m sure you both will find out what you have in common so I will leave you alone to get acquainted.” And off I go to my next friend.
A true friend is someone whose presence can enrich me to be gentler, stronger, and happier. A human being whose happy side or dark side can be triggered by any unmet need. And a deep realization that in this imperfect world, a best friend can also be our worst enemy. And vice-versa.
Nothing is truly permanent in life, including friendships.
Why do I bring up the topic of “true friends” now?
In the past four years, there were some important people who came into my life to become new companions in my growth and evolution as a human being.
For instance, there is my friend, William (not his real name, of course).
Our friendship started when we were both consultants for a concert producer. Aside from the “Hi, how are you, what do you do?” questions, we didn’t really hit it off. A year passed. When we serendipitously met during a youth conference, both of us were stunned to know that we shared the same interests in non-profit projects.
“I thought you were Miss Rich Princess, always arrogant and unwilling to talk to poor people,” William teased me.
“I thought you were an entertainer. I didn’t know you were a social change consultant,” I retorted.
And so the sparks of true friendship began.
Many months later, as we worked and volunteered together, inevitably many more people came into the picture. Some of us couldn’t see eye to eye on many things. Changes in the environment were happening too quickly. Turmoil was inevitable.
William and I started getting testy with each other. He was getting paranoid about my obsessiveness in how things needed to get done while I became resentful about his high expectations of my work performance. Eventually, we mutually decided that it was better to preserve our friendship and to discontinue our working relationship. We had hit quite a low point in our friendship so we knew we had to give each other some space.
“Space” meant “no contact.”
“Space” meant time away from each other to reflect on what had happened.
“Space” meant being able to work and play without each other.
“Space” meant being able “to be” without each other.
“Space” meant taking a risk — and keeping the faith that we would overcome our own demons.
My husband, throughout the highs and lows of my friendship with William, never really knew what was happening. It was best this way. My husband’s and William’s friendship would not be affected by what had happened to us.
Three months elapsed before I stopped wondering how my friend, William, was coping without my efficient help. Another month passed before I felt I could hug him and tease him during a social event. Yet it was another four months before we had a heart-to-heart talk. It felt good. We felt good about each other. We were learning to trust each other again. Our friendship felt blessed.
Another six months would pass before William and I considered a new working relationship. This time, we agreed on some ground rules. Although we had always worked well in a group atmosphere, we did our best work together. It was such a simple arrangement. If we didn’t reveal certain information to each other, it was because it wasn’t relevant to our friendship. Both of us became more aware about each other’s gifts. Each of us became more grateful about the lessons that true friendship gave us.
Today, my friendship with William is richer, fuller, and more meaningful. We believe we have overcome some tough hurdles friends-for-life go through.
It took some courage for me to write about this subject of “true friendship” because today, I have two friends who have hit “a low” in their relationship. Two months ago, I recommended to both of them (individually) to “give each other some space.” My woman-friend feels that she shouldn’t stop communicating with my man-friend. I perceive her to have the “savior” mind-set. My man-friend, on the other hand, feels that he needs to proceed in his journey without her companionship — for now. He is willing to “let go.” She thinks everything is normal as usual — and that he will come around and beg her for assistance in his troubles.
I took a risk in being misunderstood. One time, I screamed and yelled at my woman-friend because it seemed that this type of “shock therapy” was needed to make her come to her senses.
I had told her, “If your goal is to heal your friendship, you might want to give each other some space. No contact whatsoever. You will be able to give yourself time to look at this friendship from many perspectives.”
She wouldn’t listen. “But he’s already communicating with me! See, he’s been answering my e-mails.”
“It looks like he is answering only the e-mails that really need responses because it’s business-related. You might think that is a sign that all is forgiven. You really hurt him. It’s going to take time to heal. Is your persistence in communicating with him the right thing for you to do at this time?” I replied.
I cared. I dared yell at her because she wouldn’t stop goading him. There was a time I felt she had started harassing him.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” I thought.
Then, I remembered my own experience with William, friend-for-life.
I realize now that if these friends allow themselves to stay away from each other, enjoy new relationships, experience more life-changing adventures, then maybe some day, they will have a heart-to-heart talk — and figure it all out.
We can only hope.