A Reflection on Friendship
December 16, 2015
“And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.” –Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, On Friendship
“What does it mean to be a friend?” has been a question in my space for the past few years. I can think of so many friendships throughout my life that were wonderful and fun for different reasons. In my childhood, I spent much of my time with friends with whom I shared similar interests and laughs. Whether that meant being on sports teams together, working on a school project, or maybe a fun social event like a birthday party or school dance, a friend was defined by who I spent time doing “things” with and having a good time. Becoming “friends” with someone by spending time doing fun things together has also been a theme in my adult life, yet I am also feeling so much more depth and possibility emerging in my friendships (and all of my relationships!). One recent experience with a friend stands out for me as an “Ah-ha!” moment when my world was opened to a new possibility of depth.
After a few Awareness Institute workshops exploring the unconscious messages and beliefs that I had taken on as a young child, I could clearly see how acting on these unconscious “stories” as if they were true was stunting my full expression and ability to create the life I wanted. Particularly in friendships, I often shut down my authenticity and vulnerability for fear that my friends wouldn’t like me or what I have to share.
Then one day, I was sharing some future plans with a friend who had been in a workshop with me – a friend who knew many of my go-to “stories.” As I was talking, she leaned in and gently questioned: “Do you really believe that and want that for your life? Are you sure that’s what you want to create?”
I could feel my defenses and walls rise up. I wanted to run away, to push her away and tell her that she was wrong. And yet she sweetly looked me in the eye and stood there completely present, loving me fully. Within seconds, I saw the decision clearly: I could push her away or I could be honest and real. I chose to allow myself the experience of being honest and real and leaned into the fear.
I felt the tears well up and uncertainty creep in. Is it okay to trust someone enough to let them know what’s really going on? Is it okay to want something different than I’d been planning for? Is it okay to NOT know what I want?
All of the sudden, I felt the wall of fear begin to crumble. I saw that I was hiding behind what I thought was safe. I was hiding behind the answer I thought she would want to hear because I was afraid of allowing myself to choose something that might (I imagined) upset her, but was actually true for me. I opened my mouth to respond and felt myself right up against the fear of disappointing her. My heart was racing and voice trembling, and yet there she stood, arms outstretched, hugging me. My heart opened to one of the truest connections I have ever felt.
I left that interaction and space with a full heart and swirling mind. What just happened? What if friendship isn’t about people-pleasing and sharing “events” together? She saw my own fears and stories, even when I did not. She gently prodded and encouraged me to drop deeper into what is really true and allowed me the space to move beyond the story of what is “safe” for me to share. She held a higher vision for me and loved me through my fears and stories. While I still may not have the words to define what a true “friend” is, I felt a deepening of my spirit that day. I am eternally grateful for this friend who showed me that it’s possible to be honest and real and open to a depth of connection I had not known existed.