Friends are a safe place

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2002

How many friends do you have? How many people consider you a friend? Easy questions. But how easy are the answers?

In today's rush-rush world, making and keeping friends sometimes gets lost. We unintentionally fail to find the time required to cultivate and nourish friendships. "Call you tomorrow" turns into "see you soon", and before we know it, that person we considered a close friend becomes a casual acquaintance. We may not even realize it is happening until one day we see them and find that we know nothing about what has been happening in their life. There's been a problem in the family, a job change, a new romance"I'm sorry. I didn't know." Bingo! Casual acquaintance.

Maintaining friendships is a process requiring close attention and dedication, and may not be put high enough on the priority list. But it should be up there close to the top. There are few things more valuable than a friend. Family and God hold higher rank, but friends pretty much come next. Trust me, they deserve more maintenance time than the gutters around the house or the perfection of your putt.

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When we try to make a list of our friends, just what do we mean? How do we determine who they are? Webster's defines friend as, "a person one knows well and is fond of; an intimate associate; a close acquaintance; a person on the same side in a struggle; a supporter or sympathizer." Those are pretty serious words. All of us have many friends if we use the first part of that definition as our criteria. There are many people we both know well and are fond of, but what about the part that speaks of those who are on our side in a struggle. I suspect that narrows the list.

It's safer to stay out of other people's struggles than it is to take a supportive role. Standing tall can lead to some sticky situations. Assuming a stance is dangerous. Heaven forbid we should be cast in the role of proponent. Someone valuable could get his or her feelings hurt, and you never know who you'll need in the future. Right? If you operate this way, you'll never win any friend of the year awards. And most likely, you won't have to send many Christmas, birthday or Valentine's cards. For sure, you won't be bothered with any of them in your mailbox!

Last Sunday, the preacher was speaking about relationships. He said that true friends are not necessarily those with whom we have a lot in common. He suggested that true friends are those to whom we can completely disclose ourselves and they don't run away. I think I agree with that. There are not many places where we can "let it all hang out". We oftentimes feel that we must hide, gloss over, make nice the innermost parts of ourselves where the dark things live. We hesitate to let others see our deepest feelings or fears. We have a tendency to put on our outside faces and try to show the world what we think it wants to see. The reasons for this behavior are another topic. But as related to maintaining friendships, this is fatal behavior. If we are not honest in what we display to the outside world, we are deceiving all those who befriend us.

When I look at all this information, I am happy to say that I do have a few true friends. I am indeed fortunate. I fear it may be more because of their efforts than mine that the friendships flourish. I get bogged down in daily life just like everyone else.

But to know that I have someone from whom I have to hide nothing is a marvelous gift. I cannot say anything, think anything, or be anything that would sever the relationship. I have unconditional love, complete acceptance and total support. And to those friends, I return the same. That makes one wealthy woman.

Thanks Cindy.

For questions and comments, email Carolyn McGinty, staff writer, at