The Gift of Friendship

| by Rebekah Haven, under Inspiration

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m making my way through Austin-Bergstrom Airport waiting to catch my flight to Chicago. In a few hours, I will be with my best friend getting ready to celebrate her wedding! It’s bittersweet, though. After the wedding, the couple will be packing up and moving to England. All these wonderful changes have been taking a toll on my emotions. Koral and I have been best friends since before I can remember. Our parents grew up together and started a lifelong relationship that they passed down to us. You know those friends who you may not see that often, but when you do, you can pick things up right where you left them? Well that’s the way it’s always been for us. Growing up, we lived six hours away from each other, so visits were seldom and texting was intermittent. But man, we made the most of our time. We knew how to “twins it up”! Without trying, we would still come out wearing the same outfit, have the same coffee drink and say the same things! You might laugh at how similarly crazy we are.  

 

While I’m waiting to board the aircraft, I think back on all we’ve been through. Koral has had many major health obstacles to overcome throughout her school years, and we almost lost her. I got married a little over four years ago. She was my maid-of-honor and a tremendous help leading up to the big day. Then, only three weeks later, she helped me mourn the loss of my mom. To say we’ve been through it all would be an understatement. We’ve laughed, cried and laughed till we cried countless times! I’ve realized how precious our friendship is and have come to learn that finding those people who will go through everything with you are rare and far between. But having those deep relationships are oh so important to us as humans. We are social people and require human interaction to keep us sane, literally!

 

Relationships are crucial to our health. We all need friends who will stand by us through thick and thin. Someone who keeps tabs on our life and doesn’t befriend you for what they can get out of you. Friendship is a two-way street and is built when two people fight for each other. Henri J.M. Nouwen said it best when he wrote, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares”.

 

Now, we all have countless Facebook friends, celebrities we follow and the coworker who we pass everyday and grab an occasional lunch with. While these people may say things to encourage us, teach us or just stay connected, they alone are not what true friendship looks like. According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, we have levels of friendship. Generally, only about five people reach the highest level of “closeness” to us. (For further reading on this study checkout the link at the bottom of this post). But putting studies aside, most of us only have a small group of people with whom we feel completely open. For me personally, I would say I have three such people at this point in my life. That’s because it takes time and trust to build a relationship strong enough to merit sharing the deepest part of my heart, my failures and my unspoken dreams. In my opinion, it’s damaging to wear your heart on your sleeve. Too many people can use and abuse it, leaving lasting scars without a second thought. Most people won’t, and shouldn’t, have access to your inner most thoughts and struggles. People (and this is so me) fear rejection and being shamed. Therefore, we often put on a facade and hide behind our “perfect” exterior. Instead, we need to find a few people who can peak behind our walls and help us when things hit the fan. I will be the first to say it takes guts, and ENERGY, to trust another person with all the good, the bad and the ugly we can come with!!

 

Maintaining those relationships takes mental, and sometimes physical energy. No wonder it hurts so much when a close friend betrays or disappoints us! As I touched on above, having human interaction is also a necessity for our mental health. Have you ever wondered why solitary confinement is a dreaded punishment? When people go without human interaction for extended periods of time, they actually become mad. As a defense mechanism, our brain will start to create imaginary people to interact with and we begin to crave any human conversation. This sort of separation is something that will change you forever and is unbelievably hard to heal from. Thankfully, I and no one I know are in that extreme a position, but the principle can be applied at a lesser level. There are many people we pass by everyday and something as simple a warm smile or greeting could be what they need. There’s a chance they’ve not found those special people to do life with yet, but I can promise you they need it just as much you or I do!

 

Getting back to my story. My plane has landed and I’m ready for this week. I’m here early to help carry some wedding stresses and enjoy these last few days with my friend before she leaves and we say goodbye. Koral is, aside from my husband, the best friend a gal could ever ask for. I am so thankful and blessed to know her and to share life with her. If you don’t already know who your most trusted friends are, I challenge you to find your “Koral” and work hard at cultivating your relationships. It’s important to have people we can share life with at a deeper level. They keep us from becoming depressed or lonely; they bring us true joy. These friends should also be ones who edge you on to be better, correct you when you need it and remain faithful through the seasons. For me, Koral has earned a place as one of my dearest friends! She is a gem! We’ve both been able to share deep hurts that would otherwise be eating us up inside. We’ve also gotten to experience some of life’s greatest joys together. I think it’s true that life shouldn’t be measured by what we accomplish, but by who we accomplish it with. To wrap it up, here’s a thought - “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light”, Helen Keller.

 

Science Says You Can Only Have 5 Close Friends At A Time

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dunbar-layers-friendship-study_us_5728d4c5e4b016f37893ac14

 
 
 
 
 
 
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