“A true friend is the best possession.” – Benjamin Franklin
I write often on the benefits of living with fewer possessions. One of the greatest rewards of living with less is the opportunity that it provides to focus our energies (and finances) on the things that are most important to us. These values will change from person to person, but for me, they have been typically defined as faith, family, and friends. Since choosing to become minimalist, I have had more time, money, and energy to pursue each of them.
One of the reasons that friendship makes my list of values is because I have seen how much benefit they provide. The opportunities they provide to make life better far outweigh anything that can be found in material possessions. As a result, they ought to be pursued with far greater fervor than most of us commit to them.
Consider the ways friends make life better. Authentic friends…
1) Encourage us. Friends believe in us. As a result, they offer both the words and the support we need to become better people in all aspects of life.
2) Challenge us. Friends recognize deficiencies in our life. They challenge us to embrace and succeed in making these healthy, life-giving changes.
3) Motivate us. In every regard, it is highly motivating to know that someone loves you, believes in you, and is cheering for you.
4) Listen to us. Friends open their ears and hearts to our words. A listening ear communicates value, trust, and openness. And a listening ear provides the opportunity for our thoughts to disentangle themselves.
5) Celebrate with us. Full joy is never realized until it has been shared with others – that’s why we immediately call our friends when something good happens. Friends celebrate with us in victory and make our joy complete.
6) Grieve with us. Life is full of ups and downs. Friends make the high points higher and the low points bearable.
7) Support our contributions. Friends recognize the value we contribute to the world and the beauty we offer to it. They look forward to our contributions and promote them to others.
8) Keep us honest. Friends know us best. They know our strengths… and they recognize our weaknesses. Because of their intimate knowledge of who we are, they keep us honest with each other and with ourselves.
9) Add joy to our lives. According to a study from the Harvard Medical School, the more friends a women had, the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life. There is likely some correlation between being joyful and having friends… but clearly the inverse is also true.
10) Improve our health. Studies also indicate that authentic friendships actually result in better health. These relationships make healthy habits easier to adopt and the body more likely to heal itself.
11) Provide opportunity for influence. Trust always precedes influence. Sometimes trust can be earned quickly (books, experts, studies), but other times it can take years of living life together. Friendships – life lived in relationship with others – offers trust and influence.
12) Provide opportunity for sacrifice. Giving always benefits the receiver and the giver. True friendships require sacrifice. And in that sacrifice, both lives are improved.
Of course, those of you who already have good friends understand these realities. In that case, take some time today to be reminded of their importance in your life. Adjust your life accordingly. Extend gratitude where needed or change your priorities as necessary to further invest yourself into them.
But there are a number of people who will read this post and desperately desire the level of intimacy and longing mentioned above. You have sought these friendships for years and yet, for one reason or another, they have eluded you. Or you had them at one time, but they have since disappeared from your life. Take heart. And never lose hope.
The path to discovering these authentic relationships is always the same. It will require risk, trust, and honesty. It will require sacrifice and intentional investment. It will require you to give and give and give some more and it will require you to become the very friend you desperately desire. But in the end, it will be worth every ounce of energy you commit to it.