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Thinking about Friendship

Like many seminarians coming to the end of their studies, I’ve been reevaluating a lot of areas of my life.  What will I study next?  Where will I live?  Should I move from my current apartment or stay for a year as I prepare to apply for doctoral programs?  Is there a current call on my life?  But among the complex issues that have been coming up again and again as of late, the topic of friendship has been at the fore.

friendsWhen I started seminary I heard that I’d be making friends that would last for the rest of my life.  On finishing my education, I can say that I’ve made a rather extensive network of acquaintances.  Some of these I think of as friends.

But there seems to be some sort of unrealistic expectation about what those friendships mean and just how intimate they are.  A few of these folks I hold very close to my heart, though I don’t see them every day or even talk with them all that much.  Some have moved on to their first pulpits, many miles away from seminary.  Only time will tell how this will eventually play out.

But now that I’ve got some time to think, it appears that I, like many Americans in our time, have a lot of acquaintances and a lot of obligations.  But when it comes to nurturing relationships of mutual support, those appear to be in short supply.  From what I’ve heard lately, I’m not alone in this situation.

As this conversation has come up a few times over the past couple of months, a friend of mine (Sam) sent around an email to start up some conversation:

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott [better known these days for doing marriage workshops and books; also fairly well-recognized as the co-creators of Harmony.com] provided leadership for a lot of research on friendship during the ’90’s.  That research yielded very consistent results over the years. The top ten characteristics of a good friendship:

1. Consciously making time to spend with each other.

2. Observing confidentiality — never sharing with others what was shared in confidence with them and never gossiping about one another to others.

3. Clearly communicating caring for one another — listening to each other, showing genuine interest in each other’s lives and concerns, seeking to be helpful to each other.

4. Providing space for one another to have other friendships and/or solitude as needed and desired without resentment or jealousy.

5. Speaking truth to one another and giving honest feedback in caring ways — both giving honest self-disclosure and offering constructive encouragement for change [e.g. when one sees the other getting into trouble, bringing unnecessary difficulty upon himself or herself, or seeming blind to something that would be helpful to understand or notice.

6. Working out conflict and the inevitable wounds of imperfect human interaction and being ready and willing to forgive when injury is acknowledged and regret is present.

7. Remaining faithful friends through hard times as well as good.

8. Laughing easily with one another, which requires that there be some common ground in sense of humor and finding similar sorts of things humorous.

9. Celebrating one another’s victories and good times even when one is finding victory in his or her own life difficult at that time.

10. Praying for one another on a regular basis. [This one comes up in the top ten with all kinds of populations, including those who have no religious affiliation.]

So with Sam’s permission, I am posting this to my blog, offering up his synopsis for discussion.  As we all continue to learn stewardship of our resources and time, it seems important that we also learn how to make the best our relationships.

Perhaps by counting the cost of friendships we can take the first steps in learning to invest in our friends wisely and to count the cost of making and maintaining healthy relationships.

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