You’ve Got a Friend: The Nature of Real Friendship
During the restrictions of the pandemic, many have been missing physical contact with friends. CHRIS McDONNELL looks at the nature of real friendship.
In her famous song “You’ve Got A Friend”, Carole King wrote of friendship. The opening verse says it all: “When you’re down and troubled, and you need some lovin’ care, and nothin’, nothin’ is goin’ right: Close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest night. You just call out my name and you know, wherever I am, I’ll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I’ll be there. You’ve got a friend.”
The months of lockdowns and social distancing have been a good time to explore the essence of our friendships, for just how strong are our relationships one with another?
It is often said that, in times of trouble, you find out who your true friends are. We all have many acquaintances, the passing relationships of our frequent exchanges on e-mail or social media, where in a few casual words we trade views. Sometimes it is with people we have never met other than as a recognised name in our inbox or on our timelines.
Gradually, over a period of time, trust and acceptance is built up and a personal understanding develops, to the extent that a friendship is formed. There are those you know you can depend on to reply.
In our lifetime we make few lasting friendships, relationships that have real depth and understanding. We meet many people through our years in school, in further education and in our place of work. Our social contacts through clubs and societies offer another stratum of experience. But real friendship has a depth of sharing that is not found in casual contact but comes from living together over an extended period of time.
That is where the boundary of friendship and love hovers uncertainly, where friendship leads to a commitment from two people to share their lives in a particular way that is recognised by those around them.
A friend listens but doesn’t make judgment, offers the opportunity for you to work through the stress and complexity of the given moment in a place of safety, trust and understanding. Often we can reach a solution by the very act of speaking. Sharing with one another helps us find our way through the complex maze that surrounds us, one step at a time.
Standing the test of time
We build friendships through shared activity, occasions of sharing that strengthen confidence. Such trust begins in small ways. It stands the test of time and circumstance and becomes valued till you can honestly say: “You’ve got a friend.”
Because of the strength of such a bond, it is all the more painful when friends let us down. Sometimes those in whom we placed our trust are found wanting in times of need.
Then comes the difficult work of rebuilding, of making fresh again that which has been damaged, a time of forgiveness for perceived wrong. That has to be done face to face without the interference of technology for it is about the nature of relationships. Text messages, e-mail and phone calls don’t have the emotional capacity to handle such a delicate task of repair.
Those who gathered round Jesus, trusted friends, came to betray him when the chips were down. Peter, challenged during the trial of Jesus by servants, denied knowing the man on three occasions before hearing the crowing of the dawn cockerel. Later, on the shores of the lake, he was forgiven and a friendship was repaired over sharing of a breakfast meal.
That sign of friendship, of eating together, often has been missing during the pandemic. Offering a meal to friends in our homes or going out for a meal together, frequently wasn’t possible. Somehow the exchange of chat over the phone or the Zoom meeting has not been an adequate alternative. But it has been something, a reaching out, a time of listening.
The doors of our friends’ homes will reopen soon, and we will welcome each other once again with a handshake, a hug or a gentle kiss of greeting.
This article was published in the August 2021 issue of the Southern Cross
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