One of the life’s greatest blessings is to have friends who we can count on and share anything with. With the passage of time, the fabric of most friendships starts to wear thin, but some do keep lifelong friendships. To have a dependable friend is the next best thing to having a loyal partner you [actually] love.

I meet so many young people whose lives completely revolve around their friends. They go to great lengths to keep their friends happy often by doing things they ordinarily wouldn’t do. Sometimes, they call it peer pressure. One time someone asked me, “How do I know who is my real friend?” I thought this question deserved attention.

Let me share with you a small anecdote by Gyokuko Carlson taken from The Hidden Lamp.

Myo-on Maurine Stuart was leading a one-day retreat, and one of her students was soon to ordain as a priest. The student was walking behind Maurine during kinhin, or walking meditation, when she saw another woman start to wobble and fall. Without thinking, the student reached out her hand to assist the other woman. Maurine whacked the student’s hand hard, twice. The other woman didn’t fall.

The next morning, as the student was pouring tea for breakfast, Maurine turned to her, “Do you want to know why I hit you yesterday?”
“Yes,” she said.
“You were being too helpful. You have to let people find their own balance. Don’t be a crutch for them.”
The student bowed deeply.

I think this is the essence of friendship. A good friend is someone who will catch you when you fall but not be a crutch. Friendship doesn’t mean that you never challenge the other person or only agree to whatever they want to do or say. It is about expressing your honest opinion but respecting their right of making choices they see fit. When you be a crutch, you actually impede their growth. A pupa never turns into a butterfly without resistance, a seed never becomes a sapling without cutting through the resistance of earth.

The one who blindly agrees with you just so you are happy, or the one who is only happy if you do things the way they want, such a person is not your friend because true friendships are forged in freedom and thrive on a sense of equality. Any relationship where one person is constantly on his or her toes to please the other person, will one day fall apart. Without fail. Because it’s not practical and soon it’ll get very tiring. Agreeing to disagree is how two friends end any undesirable argument.
A true friendship offers the personal space to lead the life you have chosen for yourself. And the only way to have a good friend, a lifelong friend, is to be one. Ralph Waldo Emerson had said something along those lines.

I don’t mean to make sweeping generalizations but I’ve observed that, compared to men, women are generally better at keeping lifelong friendships. When two male friends meet, they may talk a great deal about sports, politics, automobiles, gadgets, business ideas etc. but little about themselves, about things going on in their lives, stuff that’s really bothering them. Two very good male friends can meet, watch a game of cricket for a day over a few drinks, and not speak a sentence to each other. They may feel temporarily fulfilled. But, when they go home after meeting, little healing has taken place because they got nothing off their chest.

On the other hand, when two female friends have a day out, they may talk about shopping and all, but there’s room to talk about each other too. They tend to share what’s going on in their lives (if they are true friends). It’s one the primary reasons why friendships can be transformational because you get heard without being judged. And that’s what a true friend is: someone you trust and who listens to you without judging you.

A wife came home really late into the night and was confronted by her husband.
“Where were you all this time?” he asked, suspiciously.
“I was out with my best friend.”
“Who?”
“I don’t have to tell you her name.”
Unconvinced, he called all six of her girlfriends but each one said she wasn’t with her. Yet, he let it go thinking there might be something she didn’t want to share at this stage.

A mere one week later the husband came home at 3 in the morning. He was drunk and crashed on the bed. A few hours later when he woke up, she asked him the same question.
“I went out with my best friend last night.”
“Who?”
“I don’t have to tell you his name.”
She took the numbers of his ten best friends and began calling them. Every single one of them said, “Yes, of course, he was with me. He left very late.” One friend went the extra mile and confirmed that her husband was still asleep in his home.

You borrow your own meaning of a true friend from the joke above.

Good friends respect each other’s choices and personal space. They are like the assorted flowers in a bunch. Each one enhances the beauty and appeal of the bouquet. Each part makes the whole beautiful without taking over the whole.

If you are blessed with a good friend or friends, don’t let them go. I’m not saying you cling to them either. Do learn to value your friendship though. You know why? We can’t retain what we don’t value. It’s a short life that’s passing by at a pace much faster than we care to accept.

It’s not worth it (ever) to keep grudges in your heart and wreck your peace. This precious life becomes an enormous burden then. Tides rise in the sea periodically but the sea does not forsake the waves. Similarly, differences and disagreements in a friendship doesn’t mean you abandon your friends. Have a bigger heart and you’ll quickly rise above the mistakes of your loved ones. As I wrote earlier, your life is only as beautiful as the relationships you keep. With others, with yourself.

Each moment of your life is like a drop in the ocean. As each drop has the potential to become an alluring pearl, each moment has the promise to be a memory of infinite beauty.

Our life is only as worthwhile as the memories we have of all that we may have said, done, thought or felt. Let’s fill it with good stuff.

Befriend it. Value it. Love it so it may love you back.

Peace.
Swami

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