Our friendships with each other is one of life's most meaningful gifts. A Greek poet once said, "Life has no gift or blessing like a prudent friend". How important are our relationships with our friends?
Interpersonal relationships are more important to us than most of us realize. When adults are asked to name the times when they were most happy, most seem to say that what makes them most happy or sad are personal relationship with other human beings. Those relationships can be more important than personal health, more important than work and more important than money or material things.
We all need stable relationships in our lives. Certainly there is value in an intimate friendship, even though we may risk being hurt by making ourselves vulnerable. Close friendships make us feel wanted and needed. They also help us discover that our own problems and feelings are not unique. Friends often have similar problems and joys to share.
Our lives are enriched through meaningful friendships. Perhaps more than any other factor, the quality of our human relationships determine the quality of our lives. This means that a high priority of our lives should be the building of significant relationships with family and friends through open and honest communication.
When we find ourselves in short supply of friendships, it is quite possible that we are not willing to devote our energies to it. We simply assume it will happen. But it doesn't. We need to take an interest in other people, and that requires time, effort and a deep concern.
Most of the time, we are somewhat guarded in what we share with each other. We often stick close to role-defined behavior or focus on our positive attributes to avoid rejection. If a relationship is going to develop, we have to take the risk of being honest with our feelings.
Relationships are often inconvenient. While we may want strong relationships with others, we find it inconvenient to invest in them.
Studies have recently shown that a concern for others is a prescription for reducing the stress of life. Those studies show that involvement with others and concerns for their problems work wonders. The opposite is also true. If we are self-centered, we experience more anxiety, more depression, more hostility and more stress.
Perhaps the simplest, most effective advice ever given regarding our relationships with others come from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He said with so much simplicity, "Whatever ye would have men do to you, do so even to them." That admonition is the summary of prudent friendships.
Rev. Hans Lillejord