“To have a friend and be a friend is what makes life worthwhile.” ~Unknown
I lost my beloved husband from complications following a routine surgery. His sudden death changed every facet of my life and rocked me to my knees. Now, more than a year after his passing, I am openly speaking of my grief experience with others and sharing how I’ve coped being a young widow.
I was asked recently what was one of the great lessons I learned from losing my husband, and I knew what my answer was without hesitation: the importance of having a diversified life.
Your financial adviser will tell you to diversify your investments, rather than putting all your “eggs in one basket.” If one investment is lost, you’ll still have others to rely upon.
The same is true in relationships. Certainly the relationship with your spouse should be your primary focus, but it cannot, and should not, be your only relationship. Emily Dickinson said, “My friends are my estate,” and I couldn’t agree more.
As a mother of three boys, I lived in a house full of testosterone. My husband knew that not only was time with girl friends beneficial for my mental health, but also the positive tenor of our home. He encouraged me to participate in “girls’ nights” on a regular basis and to take a yearly trip to the beach with my gal pals, a tradition for almost 20 years.
Thus, when my husband passed away, I had a fully developed support system of ladies who, even now, are still meeting countless needs and making me feel included even though I am flying solo. They have been my lifeline during this dark time. Don’t get me wrong, my family members have been wonderful, but they don’t live close enough to me to give me the daily encouragement I need.
Cultivating lasting, loving friendships takes time and effort; however, I cannot impress on you how important the investment in friends is, in both good times and bad. Here are some ways to create and cultivate lasting friendships:
Be you. The greatest gift you can give to others is you—the real you. So, pull off your mask and be authentic!
Be friendly. Mother was right; you have to be a friend to have a friend.
Be giving. What can you do for another that will make their life better?
Be encouraging. The kind words you have for others are a balm for their soul. Spread them liberally.
Be interesting. Cultivate yourself so you have something to share with others. Read. Travel. Learn.
Be loyal. Through thick and thin, be loyal to your friend. From their best moments to their worst, stick by your friend’s side.
Be enriching. A true friend adds value to others by having a lifestyle of value.
Be understanding. Seek first to understand your friend. Then you can help them understand you.
Be direct. If misunderstandings arise, tackle them head-on with gentle honesty. Never let a disagreement fester and damage a friendship.
Be accepting. Just because someone is different from you doesn’t mean you can’t find common ground on which to build a firm friendship. Go outside your “zone” to find friends.
Be flexible. People’s lives ebb and flow. So do friendships. Let it be okay to have changing degrees of closeness with your friends.
Be available. Our busy lives make time a very precious commodity. Schedule regular time with friends and stay in contact via email, text, or phone calls.
Be a listener. Truly listen to your friend. Don’t spend their talking time framing what you’re going to say next.
Be fun. The more fun you share with others, the more fun you have.
Be positive. People like to be around someone who makes them feel better, not someone who poisons their time together with toxic negativity.
Be honest. When a friend’s actions or decisions scare you, share your heart in a non-judgmental way. If not you, then who?
Be dependable. Don’t let your friends down—ever.
Be appreciative. Tell your friends how much they mean to you. You may think they already know this, but a verbal affirmation every so often makes sure they do.
Be respectful. You and your friends may not have the same likes and dislikes in people, politics, or passions. Be respectful of these differences.
Be considerate. Give your friends space and be accepting of their time with family and other friends.
Be supportive. Cheer friends on when they “win,” cry with them when they “lose,” and laugh with them when either of you do something stupid.
Building a lasting friendship is not easy. If you are authentic and are willing to open yourself up to others, you will find that there are many people who are looking for a good friend. So, if you haven’t already, take the time to invest in friendships. They may be your lifelines one day, and you may be one for them.
Editor’s Note: This is a contribution by Cynthia Hughes Lynch