The Journey of Friendship
Ah friendship. It’s such a beautiful word that often finds us reminiscing about those old school playground days. Our mind shoots to the moment we made our first best friend but were really and truly friends with everyone we met. Life was a playground and we were all just out there to have fun without any agendas.
But life’s a little bit more than a playground, unfortunately. And as time goes on, people start forming agendas…often by the ripe old age of eleven. And then a little beyond that, we start to develop our world view. Suddenly, it becomes obvious that not everyone sees things the same way. Life’s not as simple as recess and lunch boxes. It’s more complex. Based on our life experiences, we form our different perspectives on the world, and we gravitate towards people with like perspectives.
And suddenly, we’re adults. Life is busy, and it’s hard to keep track of everyone and everything like in high school or college. Friends are fewer and farther between. But just like that, you can start to tell who’s in it for the long haul. (check out Your Shrinking Friend Circle and Why It’s Okay by Kelly Nash on Lipstick & Ink for more on this topic!)
What I’ve Learned
So what forms a friendship? Circumstances mostly. You find yourself in the same place at the same time with someone, and you bond over a commonality.
I’ve had lots of pockets of friends over the years. Each group fit perfectly for that space and time in my life. But all the groups of friends I’ve had have come to an end. It was the end of an era for one reason or another, typically because circumstances changed. I was no longer in classes with certain people, our church stopped the small group program, I graduated. It’s the natural ebb and flow of life.
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You can’t hold on too tight to friendships or you’ll get stuck in a past season. A lot of people come into our life for a specific reason and season, and then we go our separate ways.
But there are those friends that seem to stick around despite the natural changes of life. These are the rare jewel, the lasting friendship. I’ve been blessed with one or two of those in my life, and I never want to let them go.
Five Keys to Lasting Friendship
As I reflect on the friendships I’ve had throughout my life, there’s a few commonalities between the ones that last. It doesn’t mean the other relationships were bad or that those people weren’t friends, it just means that it may not have been a friendship that was meant to go beyond a season. But you can feel something different in those friendships that are made to last the long haul. They are worth the fight and keep coming back around no matter the season.
So, for those friendships that just seem to have the thing that sticks, here are 5 keys to keep them healthy, whole, and lasting.
Two Way Street
The first thing about lasting friendships is that they have to be a two way street. When one person is pulling all the weight in a friendship, it grows weak over time. The one person is left depleted as they give give give while the other is left unfulfilled for lack of giving.
A two-way street friendship is all about give and take. It’s both people initiating hang outs and meet ups. It’s both people be willing to talk and to listen. And it’s both people bringing their full selves to the table. Sure, we all go through times where we’re not able to give as much, but in a two-way street friendship that lasts, you show up with what you’ve got.
There has to be a sense of mutuality, of equity, between friends. You can feel when someone isn’t as committed to the friendship. Maybe they’re taking advantage of the fact that you go out of your way to plan get together. Or perhaps they don’t feel the need to get back in touch with you when you’ve called. Or maybe all the conversations somehow end up being about them and all the problems in their life. Okay, so we all have short comings, but these types of things get in the way of a friendship being able to last the long haul.
It’s got to be give and take on both ends.
Mutual Support for One Another
Lasting friendships are also founded on a mutual respect and support for where one another is at in life. Unlike your everyday friendships, those lasting friendships don’t come and go with life’s circumstances. In fact, they bend and grow in tandem with them. As life changes, the friendship takes on a new shape to match the new season.
My best friend from high school and I have gotten really good about this. She is a world traveler, and I am a married working woman. Our lives look really different right now and have for the last several years. Nonetheless, we still pick right up where we left off in our friendship whenever we get together. Our friendship is based on who we are not on what we have in common at a certain stage in life.
Lasting friends support each other in every season and are able to see life’s changes as an exciting opportunity for each other. There’s no room for jealousy because the respect and excitement for one another is so strong.
When friends mutually support one another, there is space for greater individual success. There’s no competition because each one is running their own race. At the end of the day, long lasting friends can come back together no matter what life looks like at the moment. Life changes, but the love for one another remains constant.
Whether we like it or not, lasting relationships of any kind thrive best when both parties have similar beliefs and world views. You can’t last long with someone who sees the world through completely different lenses. But when two friends share core beliefs and live by them, there’s not much that can take you off of a good road.
When I say similar beliefs, though, that doesn’t mean that both people have to see things exactly the same. If that was the case, life would be completely boring, and no one would ever learn and grow. The great thing about being surrounded by friends with similar beliefs is that you can encourage each other and challenge what one another is thinking while growing in a similar direction. There’s no need for defensiveness or discord. Instead, the similar foundation allows you both to trust one another and grow in unity.
I’ve had friends all through my life who see the world differently than I do. I’ve been close with friends of all sorts of backgrounds. But the friends that I have stuck close with are the ones who come at life from a similar place as me. It’s hard to get too close to someone who differs from you on the fundamentals. But when you have a firm foundation of core beliefs in a friendship, you know you can get through just about anything because you share the same standards for life.
Transparency is so necessary for a lasting friendship. Without it, you can only go so deep. Not only does transparency take the relationship deeper, it’s also important for personal health. When we find someone, we can truly be ourselves with, we feel safe and loved.
Transparency is all about being your true self. It’s being able to say what you need to, feel what you’re feeling, and be who you are completely. In a lasting friendship, there’s no space for masks or fakeness. And there’s no desire for it either. With a true friend, being transparent is the crowning jewel. It’s like putting on your comfy clothes at the end of a work day. You can shed all the pretenses and just be.
It’s in that space that you can get freed up and rejuvenated. You can feel heard and appreciated. You can have your needs met and meet the needs of others. Transparency pulls all the walls down, and, in that, it reveals our best selves. Sure, it reveals our weaknesses, too. But our weaknesses are what make us human. They are a constant reminder that we are always growing. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and in true friendship, your friend sees the beauty in the midst of flaws.
Ability to Move into New Seasons
This is perhaps the biggest key to long lasting friendships. While the other four are necessary, they are also good to have in regular, every day friendships. But without the ability to move from season to season, a friendship won’t stand the test of time.
Above all, it rests on two friends’ ability to prioritize the friendship despite life’s changes. It’s not about trying to keep things the same, though. Instead, it’s all about valuing the intrinsic person and their life journey.
You see, most friendships rely on like circumstances. You like a person, you’re in a similar life space, so you become friends. But with life long friends, you’re friends in spite of circumstances. Life long friendship happens when two people mutually decide that the person looking across the table is worth sticking by. Instead of being friends in a season, you’re friends through seasons. It looks different at different stages, but you appreciate that because you’re both changing too. Each season of life is just a new stage along the journey together.
The Joy of the Long Haul
There’s that lasting friendship out there for each of us. That’s the beauty of it. We all have that person (or people!) that shares like values, who we can be ourselves with, who gives as much as they take, who supports us, and who has journeyed across seasons with us.
What matters is what we do with the gift of a lasting friendship. Intentionality in friendship keeps it healthy and strong. When we find that life long friend and stick with them, we experience on of life’s truest joys – deep relationship. We were made to do life with one another. Often times, we experience relationships in short spurts and then it’s time for the next. But those people that come into our lives and stay there are the ones that make it rich.