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Being A Friend

Have you been blessed with a harvest of friends over the years?  Or have you found yourself losing people, one after the other, without knowing why?  What kind of a friend are you to others?  Read this and learn what may be holding you back from building enduring relationships.

Friendship and marriage have much in common.  Like marriage, friendship is a voluntary relationship.  And there is a reason the words "for better or for worse" were written into the marriage vows - marriage is a specialized form of friendship.  Two people who are not friends with each other cannot make a successful marriage.  And, as with marriage, people who expect friendships to be free of pain or strife are deluding themselves.
Life is a balance of both good and bad on the cellular level.  It is unrealistic to expect people to be perfect.  We’re all imperfect, to varying degrees; we all have faults, they’re just different from one another’s.  This should be common knowledge, but apparently it isn't because it's astounding how many people let friendships die over pettiness.  These folks toss away friends as though they grow on trees.  Their expectations are completely outside the realm of possibility, and they are begging to be disappointed.  Not surprisingly, they always are.
This isn't about so-called "friends" who have exhibited malicious behavior but, rather, genuine friends who are experiencing the normal ups and downs of life - for example, someone who is going through a rough patch and needs emotional support and understanding.  Not all of us are natural nurturers - we can't be all things to all people - but that doesn't mean we cease being the person's friend because he or she has become "too depressing" to be around.  If that person wasn't always that way - and he or she most likely wasn't, otherwise you wouldn't have made him or her your friend to begin with - then take it for what it is and understand that it's only temporary.  Are you thinking of dropping a particular friend because he or she says things you don't agree with or doesn't share your viewpoint on certain topics?  If so, do you realize that you are, in effect, denying that person's individuality - the same thing that drew you to him or her to start with?  Do you find yourself turned off by a friend's personality traits - his or her quirks?  As long as your friend isn’t being nasty to you or doing anything to harm you, don’t let those quirks come between you because we all have them.  Don’t forget, your friends accept you for who you are - you must accept them in the same way.  You literally do have to take the bad with the good; this isn’t just a cliché.  Most people over the age of 20 have issues, or baggage, however one wants to put it - it’s called Life.  Those who appear to be baggage-free just have better PR than the others.
If you constantly drop friends, if you frequently end relationships that were otherwise good because of a few incidents or behaviors you didn’t like, then you are going to be very lonely in old age.  With six billion people in the world, it’s always easy to find another "body," to replace one person with another - but what counts in life is not how many people you’ve had as friends but how many long-term friendships and relationships you've sustained.  There is no substitute for a friend who has been with you through the years, has stuck by you in both good times and bad and who has developed the emotional closeness that only comes with time.
Friends are not entitlements - they are gifts from God.  If you don't appreciate them when you have them, if you toss them away as though they're dispensible, the day will come when God stops sending anymore new friends your way and instead directs them towards people who will appreciate them more.  Remember that when you get older, you won't be able to find people who will go on to be in your life for years and years, because you will no longer HAVE years and years.
In life, the only kind of friend you will have is the kind you are willing to be.  Anybody can stick around for the good times - that's EASY.  True friends are those who remain your friends through the bad times too ... and as we all know, while the good times may seem fleeting, the bad times don't last forever either.  But if you abandon ship at the first sign of trouble and refuse to ride it out and support your friend in need until the storm passes, you will miss out on the joy that can only come from a long-term friendship.  You will grow older and realize that there are very few people in your life who have been there for the long haul, because you discarded those who might have been.  As we get older, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to meet new people, and once we're in our later years, it's a mathematical impossibility to make a new friend who will be in your life for more than a relatively brief time.  In life, it's quality that counts, not quantity, and it is far better to have had a dozen truly close and enduring friendships in a lifetime than thousands of relationships that came and went.

Ask yourself these questions:

What have your past friendships and relationships been like?  Were they emotionally fulfilling, enduring, long lasting - or did they all end badly?  Do you currently have any friends or loved ones (besides family) who have been in your life for many years, or are the people closest to you all "newcomers" whom you've only been close to for a relatively short period of time?  Do you stick with people through good times and bad, through thick and thin, or do you leave the moment things stop being fun?  In short, have you built up lasting relationships or do you "go through people" quickly, within months or a few years, without their ever having the chance to become permanent fixtures in your life?  Do you become bored with people after the novelty of the relationship wears off?  Do you look for problems in order to justify ending the friendship?

How do you treat your friends and family?  Are you patient and understanding, especially when they're experiencing personal trials, or do you withdraw when they turn to you for emotional support?  Do you keep in mind that every human being has faults - including yourself - and that you literally do have to take the bad with the good or you're not being fair to the other person, who after all has been putting up with your "bad" throughout the relationship? 

And what about your professional life?  Do you have longevity at work, or have you found yourself dismissed from projects or fired from jobs over the years due to "personality conflicts?"  And when you're on the other side of the counter, do you treat vendors - store clerks, cashiers, restaurant servers - kindly and with respect, or do you frequently get into arguments with staff members at establishments you patronize?  (Or, by contrast, are you charming and unfailingly polite to vendors and other relative strangers while acting with callousness or indifference to your friends and family?)

When your ideas on a topic differ from those of an acquaintance or friend, do you drop the subject after a brief discussion in order to maintain the friendship or do you keep pounding away to make your point - presenting argument after counterargument until the other person terminates the communication or changes the subject?  When someone else is offering his/her viewpoint, do you accept openly what he or she is saying or do you shake your head negatively with your arms folded the whole time the person is speaking?  Do you acknowledge everything the other person says or do you "zero in" on one or two points, disregarding everything else and taking things out of context to strengthen your own case?  And do you find that you often win arguments only to lose the friends?

How many friends have you had over the years?  How many have you lost?  How many lovers/spouses have you had?  How long were you with them before the relationships ended?  Were the breakups friendly or acrimonious?  How long have you been with your current partner?  Are you happy with him or her, or are you finding fault with everything he or she does or says?  Have you been wondering why "everybody" in your life seems to disappoint you?  If this is the case, have you stopped to consider that the problem may be on your end?
Be honest with yourself.  If you choose to disregard the possibility of any negative behavior on your part, you are hurting no one so much as yourself because you will realize what you have lost when it's much too late.  Don't let that happen.  Life is too short and friendships too precious.
"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle."
"Needing a friend is like needing a parachute.  If he isn't there the first time you need him, chances are you won't be needing him again."
Treat your friends well - for in the end, the only kind of friend you will ever be able to have is the kind you are willing to be.

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Some Words on Relationships

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