I remember hearing someone describe friendship as being a relationship that has no strings. Friends simply spend spend time with each other because they want to. I consider myself very fortunate in life to have had some very good friends. Some of my richest, most fulfilling experiences have been in the context or form of friendship. I want to talk about this because I think sometimes we underestimate the importance and power of friendship, and to invest in friendship is wise.
In counselling, I often talk to people about the importance of relationships. Statistical evidence in counselling suggests that the most powerful, influential aspect of counselling is the counsellor-client relationship. The second most powerful aspect of counselling, are the relational improvements that occur outside the counselling room. In our Western Culture we are perhaps sometimes guilty of being too educationally oriented as opposed to relationally oriented. In a way, you could possibly say that we are good at helping people grow big heads as opposed to big hearts. Relationships satisfy our deepest psychosocial needs and give us the emotional fuel that we need to make positive choices, and even to think better. Quite simply, we don’t do too well in isolation.
Why is friendship so important?
- It helps us feel secure
- It helps us feel accepted
- It helps us feel significant
- It helps us feel supported
- It can be a great source of enjoyment
- It helps us focus outwardly, disrupting self- centeredness
- It is good for our mental health
There are even physical health benefits to friendship. Some of the longest living people on earth, are particularly social. In Okinawa, Japan, where more people live past 100 than anywhere else in the world, a strong characteristic in their lifestyle is strong, supportive friendships and family interaction.
The central theme of a good marriage is friendship. If you are going to spend a lot of time with someone, you really want to enjoy their company, get along well, do stuff together and connect… as friends.
As the old saying goes, ‘to have friends, you yourself must be friendly. Friendship and making friends demands proactivity. Sometimes people just expect ‘friends to happen’. It doesn’t work like that. We must move towards people, we must develop friendships, work at them, learn how to communicate, learn how to listen. We need to learn how to be a good friend. Friendships are worth it.
I’d like to encourage you to be a good friend and to develop friendships. For some people, it’s more challenging than for others. Some of us are quite shy and find certain social settings unsettling or even frightening. That’s ok, but find out what works for you and try to be intentional. Passivity in relationships is never helpful. Here are some tips:
- Get involved in hobbies or sports that you enjoy… that involve other people
- Ask questions and practice listening. People often like talking about themselves. It can be a way of ‘breaking the ice’
- Think outside the box. Sometimes really good friends are a lot older or younger than you, or may not be who you think they are
- Avoid racism, negative judgement or prejudice
- Try something new, go somewhere different
- Be yourself, have integrity but be willing to compromise (but not your values)