Friendship is like the muscles of our body. Lack of use makes the muscles weak. They sag, get out of shape and make us feel dissatisfied in the very long run. Unless one is a hermit living out his or her enlightenment dreams as a recluse somewhere with the lack of a mirror and death of desires, then having well toned muscles is not a problem. One can live with it. Old age is another time when muscles sag unflatteringly and that is understandable. It is part of an irreversible process, but even then some exercise which again is good in the long run can be done to make daily life more comfortable. The heart muscles get to pump blood better and one does not need to be out of breath ever so often. In any case, a little bit of exercise does no harm and muscles which can bear the rigorous routines of daily life are welcome. This is the same thing with friendship. It makes life as a whole bearable. We learn from friends, they pick us up when we fall and we do same for them. Iron sharpens iron and we become the better for it.
Friendship like love at first sight goes through stages. The first stage where our eyes and hearts are welcoming, our intellects light up because we , like C. S Lewis get to exclaim “ you too?!” . This is the stage where we discover things we share in common with people and decide we like them. Then comes the stage where things get normalized. We get to dig deeper into each others lives and share more intimate parts with them , hoping that they would not betray us. We share laughs and cry tears together and generally are there for each other. This is the stage of vibrancy. This is where friendship best flourishes and it is this place that the grass needs to be tended to make it forever green in our sight. The last stage is the death of a friendship. This happens because of so many reasons. Neglect, betrayal, growing apart because they did not grow together and so on.
How then should friendship be kept alive? Purpose. That’s the key word. In a consumerist society, I think purpose is the one thing that can be fed on to get positive results. Common goal is very important to keeping friendship alive. Friendship , true friendship is work. You need to receive and give, maybe not always in equal measure , but there should be frequent exchange if one’s friendship means something to you. A one- sided exchange leads to the going out of the last spark of life. Create time to indulge in things you both like. You like to read? Exchange books, talk about them. You love God? Help each other grow. Encourage each other in the Lord. Meet regularly and pray together. You have kids? Encourage and nurture interactions between them. Keep the integration going. Keep the freshness blazing. Don’t pull your friend down.
The idea is that we are not under any obligation to remain the same people we were five years ago, five months ago or even five seconds ago. Many friendships have fizzled because of the perceived betrayal the aggrieved party feels because this or that friend has not remained the same. This is ridiculous because change is the one constant thing in life. We should create space for people we call our friends to evolve out of preconceived boxes we have placed them in. We should in essence allow for differences in outlooks and opinions. We should respect our friends when they prefer chocolate to vanilla (using a simplistic example). As long as our fundamental beliefs or ties that bind us and made us attracted to each other is unaffected and as long as we do have a common link to enjoy each other’s company, then friendship can be nurtured over long lengths of time.