3 years, 6 months, and 20 days. The secret to making friends is to focus on understanding others first, and worry less about being understood.

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O Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love with all my soul.

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

It is my hope that your lives, individually, are full of good and close friends — confidants with whom you could share your fears, hopes, and dreams; and who aspire you to be better.  However, I suspect this is not the case…not because any failing of yours, but because that is the trend.

Several years ago, a study found that “Americans’ lists of … [real friends, as opposed to Facebook “friends”] has shrunk to two, down from three confidantes 25 years ago.”  http://www.livescience.com/16879-close-friends-decrease-today.html.  While this study debunked an earlier study, which suggested that nearly a quarter of Americans had no confidant at all, http://www.livescience.com/846-americans-lose-touch-report-close-friends.html, it did acknowledge concerns regarding the strength of the social ties of Americans today.  Specifically,

Brashears asked participants about a randomly selected friend they had listed, including the types of support that person could provide. Answers included: companionship, a loan of a significant amount of money, and a loan of a significant amount of non-monetary support, such as a place to crash for a while.

“Interestingly, among those respondents who reported only one discussion partner, a number of them reported that their associate would not provide any of these benefits,” Brashears said. “This leads me to think that we should be less concerned about social isolation, or lacking any social contact, and more concerned about social poverty, or not having adequate support.”

In other words, we may have some people with whom we could share matters of importance, but they are fair weather friends (“friends” who are there only for the good times) and no more.  It’s not the social contacts that matter, but the social support that our friends provide that nourishes and sustains us.  This is consistent with my experience.  The five-year battle with the Enron of Healthcare and the current battle with racist CPS officials revealed who our real friends are, and those who were but fair weather friends.

Today, Facebook, YouTube, television, and other social media are chock full of people screaming for attention.  People proudly boast about the number of “friends” they have on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter, etc.  They drive BMW’s, wear the latest fashion, and frequent the most popular hotspots in hope of gaining the admiration or approval of others.

That is so sad.  Is the admiration or approval of such “friends”, “followers”, and strangers all that important?  If you should injure yourself, would these “friends”, “followers”, and admirers rush to your aid?  Do you rush to theirs?  Can you?   Even if you wanted to, most likely you cannot because they are strangers whom you have never met in person, and who may frequently share moments of joy and wit to impress you, but never an intimate thought that would reveal their true selves to you.

Waste not your time on such empty ties.  Make the effort to find and surround yourselves with true friends, who will be there for you and inspire you, and whom you inspire and support.

This is not an easy endeavor, but one well worth the effort.  Start with the strategy offered by St. Francis of Assisi.  He is a wise man, http://www.biography.com/people/st-francis-of-assisi-21152679#devotion-to-christianity, and it is a wise strategy.

(No, I’m not saying go nuts in your youth, and shave your hair and wear a rough tunic in later years!  I am saying value less material goods, and value more the humanity you show to others.)

The strategy of focusing on the needs of others is wise for several reasons.  First, if everyone fought for the attention of others, no one would win.  It’s like a hungry mob fighting over a bag of grain: the grain spills everywhere and no one gets his fill.  Second, even if you got their attention, now what?  What good does it do you?  In mere moments, their attention would be diverted elsewhere on the ethernet.  To keep the attention of these fickle fans, you must constantly work to put shiny new pictures, witty and pithy observations,  or other trinkets before them.  Is this how you want to spend your hours, your days, and your lives?

We all have needs.  Is it not better to take turn helping each meet the other’s needs, than to fight to see whose needs would be met first?  St. Francis suggested it would be best to help another meet his or her needs first.  They would then return the favor in kind.

I frequently meet people who complain about having a hard time making friends.  My first question is: are you a good friend to others?  If you are not a good friend to others, and not willing to lend them your ear, how can you expect otherwise from them?

Be a friend to others.  You’ll be surprise how that kindness will return to you manifold.

All my love, always,

Dad

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