It is said that our character is made up of the characteristics of the people we spend the most time with. We help to build the character of those we spend the most time with.
Our friends. I invite you this week to think about the friends in your life and write a list of 10 -15 friends who have had the most influence on your life.
Notice. Who has been there for the long haul of the Journey? Who was there for only a moment? Who we have lost touch with? Who would we like to reconnect with? Who have we outgrown? For now, just make the list without spending too much time overthinking it or censoring it.
For those who want “the book of the month”, this is what I’m reading: Deep Human Connection, by Stephen Cope. The original title of the book was Soul Friends and after our last reflection on Soul Friends, I bought a copy. This reflection is influenced by some of what he has to say, because I think it is so useful to ponder. I decided to come back to Soul Friends because it seemed to resonate with so many of you last month and it fits well with some of the reflections that the kids will be doing “upstairs”. The human experience of Jesus.
The human experience is all about connections with one another. Our friends. Friends we live for. Friends we would die for.
There are so many different types of friends in our lives. They come and go. Some of our shortest friendships have the deepest impacts. Some of our longest friendships don’t ever go below the surface, but have the gift of consistency. Some are wrought with gaps and yet always seem whole. Some seem whole, but have pockets of fissures.
There are friends who make us feel safe and held. When I was writing my list, I wrote down “the librarian” whose name I don’t even remember, but it evolved into Libraries as a friend on my list. Maybe you’re thinking: that’s not in the “rules”; that doesn’t count. But when I think of a held, safe, be-whoever-you-want-to-be-friend, the Library made it. This is probably why book censoring is so bothersome to me, I definitely got my hands on books that were pretty epically awful and made “Friend Library” (in person form) raise their eyebrows and probably wonder if they should call my Mom. They never did and I took them home…and learned…a lot.
I think that sometimes, we have “friends” in places. Libraries. Churches. It’s the role of person (librarian or minister or teacher) or place that may make us feel safe and held. A church (or the like) gives us a safe place to explore who we are and our relationship to the Divine and ourselves with guidance, but without judgement. Quiet places that open doors, then step back to give us a place of safety to explore and reflect on our own Journey.
Our safe and held friends tend to be our more parental/teacher-type friends.
We also have our Equal Friends. Those friends who are equals with us and who we learn alongside with. Our partner friends with whom we take risks. We hold hands and leap off of bridges then tell each other our deepest darkest secrets. They tend to be our teen and early adult friends. Notice how they influenced what we do, and read, and wear. What we watch and listen to. What we eat. Nearly everything. Then and even now.
As we mature, these are the friends that influence what we think and how we live.
We have our friends who challenge us to be better version of ourselves. The ones who tell us we’re awesome, keep going. The ones who tell us “you know, you could work on this.” We have friends who we learn to cope with differing views and ideas. The friends who really challenge us to think about “the other side” or other ways of doing things. The friends who teach us to disagree with grace.
Who holds safe space for us? Who do we hold space for? Who can we be vulnerable with? Who can be vulnerable with us? Who are our “stick to the weather” friends? Who pushes us? Who do we push? Notice what happens when we cross boundaries with friends? When we have expectations that that person can’t (or doesn’t) fill?
Who do we need and who needs us (and in what ways)? Remember that friendship is reciprocal.
Do we fear friendship? Do we fear loving that much and then losing? Do we fear sharing so much and being betrayed? Do we fear those who are “better than us”, that we will fall prey to envy?
All of our friends open doors for us.
Perhaps, sometimes, this friend is God.
Who are our Soul Friends? Who can we open up about the “deeper stuff”? Who helps to open the doors to our deeper Being?
As we reflect on our own friends, perhaps we can reflect on Jesus’s friends.
It can be easy to think that he didn’t really have friends. That he didn’t have human needs. That he didn’t need friends.
Jesus wasn’t alone. Jesus had friends along the way.
Jesus had friends who held the container for him to do his great work.
Jesus had friends who took the leap with him.
Jesus had friends who challenged him to consider “the other side” and other ways of doing things.
Jesus had friends who dragged him off the threshold to leap in.
We are sitting on a Great Threshold.
Thresholds are a great time to reflect. Eventually, we will have to step off the threshold (one way or another) and move forward. Taking the Pause to reflect helps to keep us from leaping into what wasn’t working, because it’s what we know, it’s the “groove”/habit, it’s easy.
Reflecting helps us to choose wisely the direction we take when we step off the threshold.
Pandemic is a lesson in that we have a Mass Mutual Reliance. We are community creatures. America is founded on rugged individualism, but it’s not working if it’s not in balance. We NEED one another. If we’re honest, no one goes it alone.
And…we’re lonely. Our loneliness is having really bad consequences.
Since 1990 the number of people who say they have no friends has…quadrupled.
You know what else has risen exponentially? Depression. Anxiety. Suicide.
We’re lonely and feel alone and lost.
We are communal creatures. We need friends.
Yet we’re too busy to make friends or go out with the friends we have. We’re also afraid. Afraid to step out of our comfort zone. Afraid of getting too close. Afraid of being hurt, betrayed, or outshone (someone showing us what we’ve always known: we’re not good enough).
We’re too busy and we also think we have plenty of time. Even though we talk about “not enough time”, I don’t think we really feel it. I’ll catch up with Susie next month. I’ll go visit Bob in the summer. I listen to my Mom at Christmas. I’ll call Cindy tomorrow. Always tomorrow.
Busy over connection
Work over love.
We’re all guilty of it to some degree.
Yes, we need to work, but we work too much. We need to find the balance of work and friendship to be fully healthy.
We, each one of us, can make a difference. Reflect on friendships. Throughout your life and how they have influenced who you are. Who are your friends now? Who would you like to reconnect with? Who would you like to connect with?
Who are your spiritual companions? Who influences your life? Who helps you to become your best version of yourself?
Friendship is reciprocal. What kind of friend are you?
Take your time with all of this…reflecting doesn’t have to end at 10am on Sunday…and remember: We’re one step ahead, we have each other…and this friendly space.