By Lyn Alderson
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend”- King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs.
Just lately I’ve been reflecting in my journal about the nature of true friendship and what it entails. Personally, I don’t know where I would be without my friends.
As a child, I struggled to make friends, but as an adult I have been surrounded by them. Good, reliable, trustworthy friends and they have made a huge difference in my life.
One of my happiest days last year was being reunited with two very dear friends, a married couple, both gentle, loving souls who moved a long way from me geographically and got ‘mislaid’ in the course of time. Looking back at my journal entries, I recall that their visit to my home on a pleasant summer day in early July was balm to my soul. And since then, we have been in touch by regular emails and plan to see each other at least once a year.
By contrast, one of my saddest moments in recent years is also recorded in my journal. I heard that I’d lost another dear friend, just days before my wedding in 2013. Older than me by 20 years and highly intelligent, she had been like a sister, mother and best friend rolled into one. She’d had a life-changing head injury three years earlier.
I will always remember standing by her bed in hospital after she’d suffered this accident, weeping silently as the implications of her injury sank in. One of my tears fell directly on to her cheek and she opened her eyes, looked at me with compassion, and just said: “I know, darling”. She knew our days of deep, intimate connection were over and our cozy afternoon chats would never be the same again.
My sorrow was very real, but far eclipsed by this dear friend’s legacy in my life. There are so many happy memories of our time spent chatting and praying together, discussing matters of faith, psychology and art, recorded in my journal. We always felt safe, sharing our personal struggles in an atmosphere of mutual, unconditional love.
Why do we need friends?
- Friends are vital because they contribute to our sense of self. Good friends help us to understand ourselves. They point out where our strengths are.
- Friends give us emotional security. According to scientific research, genuine, caring friends help us live longer and stay healthier, and perform various positive functions in our lives. They help us negotiate the choppy waters of life and give us a reality check when we need one, as well as a shoulder to cry on in our darkest moments.
- Friends teach us a lot about the world as they share their specialized areas of knowledge with us, helping us to advance with careers and hobbies, and introducing us to more like-minded people.
Expressive journal writing is a great way to reflect on your closest relationships to see if you can improve and enhance them.
Some questions to ask your journal:
- In your opinion, what are the attributes of a good friend and the rights and responsibilities of friendship? Journal about your core beliefs.
- Make a list of your closest friends, your “inner circle”. Most likely you have a few special friends you feel most comfortable with. Look at each friend in your inner circle. What do you think this friend expects from your friendship, and what do you expect or hope for? Do you think you have similar views? Friendship is a two-way street: are you aware of your friends’ core values?
- Do you have enough quality time together, having fun and meaningful interaction? Is there an area where you need to show more interest in your friends’ activities? What could you do to show your appreciation to this valued friend, emotionally or practically?
On a final note, I think it’s important to identify where friendships have become toxic. A healthy relationship is respectful and creates an environment of mutual love and open communication. If you have a so-called friend who makes you feel stifled, manipulated, uncomfortable or diminished on a regular basis, something is seriously wrong. Free-write in your journal about the relationship and ask yourself some hard questions. Be prepared to break off your toxic friendship and make room for someone beautiful in your life.
Lyn Alderson is a professional journalist, ghostwriter and blogger, based in the English Midlands.
She has 25 years’ experience of writing news and features for UK newspapers and magazines and now helps people to write their memoirs. To find out more about Lyn and her work visit http://lacopywriting.co.uk
If you want to find out more about the health benefits of keeping a journal, check out Lyn's e-book The Write Therapy: How Keeping a Journal Can Make You Happier, Healthier and More Productive available from the Amazon Kindle Store