“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The teen I was talking with yesterday was perplexed. “How come I can’t keep friends?” she wanted to know. “I’m nice. I’m decent looking. I like to do stuff. Why don’t people want to hang out with me?”
“How much do you work at it?” I asked.
“What do you mean work? I mean, friendships aren’t supposed to be hard. They’re supposed to be, like relaxed.”
We have work to do. This young woman has over 500 friends on Facebook but has no one to go to the movies with and she really, truly doesn’t understand why. She hasn’t learned the basic fact of friendship: To make a new “friend” (especially on Facebook) is relatively easy. To keep one takes commitment.
Yes, commitment. Real friends are obligated to each other in a meaningful way. To be a friend is to accept the gift of another’s trust with the appreciation and trustworthiness such a gift deserves. It requires the willingness to devote time, energy, and thought to the other person’s needs and desires as well as to our own. The reward is a rich and satisfying relationship that can last a lifetime.
To the teen, I say: “Think about it this way. You know that car your family just got? Nice, isn’t it? Well, it will only stay nice if you take care of it. That means not being too rough with it, taking care of minor problems before they become major ones and doing routine maintenance like oil changes. Right? When you do, the car is reliable and is there for you when you need it.
“Friendships are like that. You need to take care of them to keep them going. You can’t be too rough with them. You have to take care of minor problems before they balloon into major ones. You have to do routine maintenance like keeping in touch, doing thoughtful things and never taking the person for granted. When you do, the friends are reliable and you are there for each other in an important way.”