I’ve been thinking about friendships all week; what makes them, what keeps them growing, what chisels deep chasms within them.
On Mother’s Day, a woman I thought was one of my closest friends heard an intentional slight in what was an off-the cuff remark. I’ve called, twice, to apologize but she won’t return my calls and it seems obvious that what seemed like a minor incident to me has ripped the scab from a deeper wound.
I know there is a lesson or two in this situation. One is pretty obvious: there’s a reason that thinking and speaking are two different acts. If thoughts are given prolonged focus they can be made manifest; but thoughtless words almost always have immediate consequences. The larger instruction has to do with human relationships.
I think we’re on this earth to learn how to be in the context of our relationships. The bible is rife with scripture, parables and examples of how we should conduct ourselves relative to our fellow man. These guidelines apply to not only the people we like but to all the people with whom we interact–neighbors, co-workers, the guy in the car who cuts in front of us, the lady working at the dry cleaners, the telemarketer calling at dinner time.
Ironically, some of the best qualities of friendship: support, greetings, information sharing, empathy are alive and well on social networking websites where people dabble in virtual relationships. Facebook’s birthday reminders make the simple act of wishing someone “happy birthday” an easy and fun “community” activity. Facebook is successful because people are inherently social and we want to make and keep friends.
People Need People.
Human relationships need attention. Some require more, or less, of our energy but they all require overt attention. Whether the energy is time, sacrifice, empathy, deep listening, laughter, civility, or simply a greeting depends on the relationship.
In the past two weeks we have seen and heard well documented examples of the energy needed and freely given in support of relationships: President Barack Obama spoke of the connectedness of people as he tried to advance the goal of peace in the middle east; we witnessed the resilience and faith of the people of Joplin, Missouri and the generosity of other people who gave help; we watched Oprah Winfrey’s farewell to daytime television with growing awareness of her philanthropy to improve people’s lives around the world.
Meanwhile, I (and I know many others) simply mourned the loss of a friend.