How to keep friendship?
It's one thing to start a friendship, it's quite another to maintain it, to keep it, to stay on what Lewis called "the same secret path." Even strong friendships require watering or they shrivel up and blow away. That's why George Bernard Shaw touched an exposed nerve when we read the words he scribbled to his friend Archibald Henderson: "I have neglected you shockingly of late. This is because I have had to neglect everything that could be neglected without immediate ruin, and partly because you have passed into the circle of intimate friends whose feelings one never dreams of considering."
It's so easy to take good friends for granted. And in a sense, we should. Like a comfortable pair of gloves, old friends wear well. But friendships that suffer from busyness and overfamiliarity can't afford to be neglected too long. They need renewal. If you want and need to keep true friendship alive and well, please, consider and think over a list of the most important qualities offered to help you. Probably it will help you to understand why you and your best friend haven't called up for ages, why you're getting embarrassed while being asked "Whom are you going to have fun this weekend with?" Like Shaw, you may neglect your intimate friends from time to time, but if you fail to cultivate these qualitiesloyalty, forgiveness, honesty, and dedicationyou can't expect to keep true friends.
The quality that tops the list in survey after survey of what people appreciate most about their friends is loyalty - support that you always give to someone because of your feelings of duty and love towards them.
Harry Truman's secretary of state, Dean Acheson, caused quite a stir when he visited his friend Alger Hiss in prison. Hiss was a convicted traitor, and it was bad politics to have any association with him. But when prudent politicians condemned Acheson publicly, Acheson simply said, "A friend does not forsake a friend just because he is in jail." That's loyalty.
The famous maxim that "a friend in need is a friend indeed" is not the entire story of loyalty, however. A friend in triumph may be even harder to find. Isn't it easier to be a savior than a cheerleader for our friends? It takes twenty-four-karat loyalty for a friend to soar alongside us when we are flying high rather than to bring us down to earth. Loyal friends not only lend a hand when you're in need; they applaud your successes and cheer you on without envy when you prosper.
As important as loyalty is, our friendships don't always have it. Enter forgiveness. Every friend you'll ever have will eventually disappoint you. Count on it. That doesn't mean that every offense of a friend requires forgiveness; some slights need only be overlooked and forgotten. Winston Churchill's mother, Jennie, understood this when she said, "Treat your friends as you do your pictures, and place them in their best light."
Too many good relationships fade because some slight - real or imagined - cancels it out. Some people pout, brood, or blow up if their friend is not speedy enough in returning a phone call or if they are not included in a social event. They set such high standards for the relationship that they're constantly being disappointed. They can't let little things go, every minor lapse becomes a betrayal.
By the way, forgiveness is a two-way street. Unless you are a saint, you are bound to offend - intentionally or unintentionally - every friend deeply at least once in the course of time, and if the relationship survives it will be because your friend forgives, the friends we keep the longest are the friends who forgave us the most. And the essence of true friendship is knowing what to overlook.
Honesty is a prerequisite to the true friends' relationship. "Genuine friendship cannot exist where one of the parties is unwilling to hear the truth," says Cicero, "and the other is equally indisposed to speak it." Does this require brutal honesty? Not exactly. It requires honesty that is carefully dealt in the context of respect. In the absence of respect, you see, honesty is a lethal weapon. Perhaps that's what caused Cicero to add, "Remove respect from friendship and you have taken away the most splendid ornament it possesses." Honesty is not only expressed in words; it means being authentic.
True friends aren't afraid to be honest and they aren't afraid to be themselves. True friends follow Emerson's advice: "Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo." Translation: If you are afraid of making enemies, you'll never have true friends.
When was the latest you and your best friend met? Dedication refers to the ability of two people to influence each other's plans, thoughts, actions, and emotions, to spend time and effort on friendship, to give up something important or valuable for sake of friendship. Think about it.
Back when you are a kid, the hours spent with friends were too numerous to count. Contemporary life, with its tight schedules and crowded appointment books, however, has forced most friendships into something requiring a good deal of intentionally and pursuit just to keep them going.
Of course, dedication becomes most salient in times of crisis. When a friend's emotional bottoming out, for example, means canceling a date to provide a shoulder of support. That's what friends are for. So don't complain about having fair-weather friends if you are unwilling to be inconvenienced.
Personal sacrifice. Selfless devotion. Commitment. These are the noble qualities dedication requires.