We may be feeling so buried under work, family obligations, and other responsibilities that we don’t connect with our friends. And when we let too much time go before responding to their social entreaties and invitations, we dig ourselves further and further into holes of unresponsiveness. Eventually we find ourselves feeling everything from guilt to inertia, sometimes even resentment, when they persist in attempts to engage us. Sometimes, “life gets in the way” and we definitely have the right to create space for ourselves. At the same time, however, it is usually a good to let friends know that we may be out of touch or unable to be available so expectations are reasonable and disappointments avoided.
Sometimes people feel they have grown apart and have developed new or different interests and that there is not enough to keep them connected. In some cases that is true. It can be helpful to step aside and think about a particular friend and what they have meant to us in the past, how we have learned from them, shared together, and what we might miss if they were not a part of our life.
At one of Dr. Lissa Rankin’s monthly “Finding Meaning in Medicine” groups which she attends with a few other “awesome physicians who gather together to remind each other why we are in service and who we are,” someone brought this list to share with the group:
The Definition of A True Friend:
- The tendency to desire what is best for the other
- Sympathy and empathy
- Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one’s counterpart
- Mutual understanding and compassion; ability to go to each other for emotional support
- Enjoyment of each other’s company
- Trust in one another
- Positive reciprocity – a relationship is based on equal give and take between the two parties.
- The ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgment.
What can We do to maintain and nurture our deep friendships even when we really don’t have the time to “be there” in ways we would like to be?
Be Honest about what is going on in our life.
Sometimes, where appropriate, meet as a group of friends.
Be Content (for the moment) with brief and more frequent encounters.
Remember that friendships are good for our health and our soul and are an investment.
Friendships are best when they are both flexible and forgiving.