Friendship has been a topic that I’ve circled on this blog for some time and I continue to bring it up because it is, in short, a category of thought that I seriously encounter a few times every year (if not more often than that).
Most simply because friendship is an elusive creature that, I believe, deserves serious consideration. Or, I might be wildly wrong about that and perhaps I give it too much thought for my own good…
One of the things that I think about often during these seasons of thought is how you qualify what a true and authentic friend is. In other words, how would you really know if you’ve been able to establish that type of relationship with someone?
We all have “tiers” of relationships, or, we’ve internally classified relationships in a loose structure of type, proximity, class, and quality. There are “friends” at work, at your local non-profit or club, or even at the gym who you regularly have conversations with.
Then, of course, there are those that are in the “inner circle” – those that are intimately tied together by something stronger, a natural bond of family or through partnership and/or marriage of some sort or through affinity and the passage of time and long-term commitment.
But, again, how do you really know if you’ve found someone new that you can really trust? Someone who can become that type of friend? One measure that I shared this morning with a bunch of guys is a bit figurative but one that works really, really well.
A friendship that is truly (and magically) authentic and true is one where you’ve willingly and intentionally given that person information that can hurt you. You have given them a loaded weapon that can fatally wound and you trust them to care for it as you, yourself would.
It’s not that you’ve asked them to never use it – there are some moments and some circumstances where the usage of that weapon is vital and life-giving.
But you trust them anyway to keep it, to be a steward of it, and at the right moment (if ever) you have allowed them and given them the permission to wield it with deft and clinical precision for maximum damage and effect. And the purpose isn’t to kill or maim but rather to surgically restore (if we’re to continue with the medical metaphor).
I can count the number of people in my life who have these types of weapons of mass destruction and instead of giving me anxiety it gives me great peace, even joy and a bit of personal satisfaction.
It is a bit of a contradiction, but, there’s something restorative about knowing that there are people in your life that can utterly annihilate you with the very weapon, ammunition, and permission to execute that you’ve provided.
But choosing the right people to hand over the nuclear codes and keys is not easy; many of us have experienced what happens when we trust wrongly, when we trust people who abuse their privileged position to manipulate and destroy.
Many of us have a closet (full) of broken relationships, some of which we may even regret. I know I do. But even after the worst of these experiences and even when I thought I’d never recover… I did. I lived. I came back and I, over time, saw the wounds heal and even appreciated the scar tissue as instructive, even beautiful.
Giving others a chance to harm you is risky – it sounds imminently stupid. But without those types of relationships I would have never been able to experience the extreme joy of a decade-long relationship with my best friend, my two awesome kids, and even professional adventures and relationships that have made me immeasurably happy.
Friendship is hard, but it’s worth fighting for. And most of us haven’t fought hard in a long, long time.