We need relationships. People need other people. We all desperately need friends. This is who we are. It is who we are. Friends help us grow, hold us accountable, pick us up when we fall. Sometimes being together is all that matters. How do you comfort someone who has just lost someone close to them? How do you do it? One cannot. The one can be, can listen, can cry together. Having someone to cry with changes everything.
Friends don’t ask for a return, they are selfless, they don’t want anything for their friendship. Yet sometimes we feel obligated to return the favor. Some relationships are like business relationships. Sometimes we mistake them for true friendship. It happens. Sooner or later, life will test them. Sometimes we have to let them go. It’s not easy, it’s painful, and it’s unfair. But we know it’s better that way.
And yet we will be disappointed. We’ll regret. We’ll promise ourselves never to do it again. And we’ll meet someone, start again, fall again. Because we know, we already know, that some of these connections will thrive, will grow, will evolve, and will be with us for the rest of our lives. There’s not much difference between love and friendship. In Latin there are different words for different kinds of love, and some of them are closer to our understanding of friendship. To be friends is to love.
To love is to be hurt. People think that real love is never-ending happiness, but it’s not. It’s hard work. There is pain and there is disappointment. There is a risk to be taken and a cost to be paid. Whatever it costs, it’s worth the price. Even if it doesn’t flourish, the time and energy we put into the relationship that doesn’t flourish is not lost. Everyone in our lives has something to teach us, and every relationship leaves traces. Even the short ones. Someone we met for a day somewhere on the other side of the world leaves a mark. The time and energy we put into getting to know someone is never lost. Never.
We are used to thinking about friendship in real categories. We are used to making friends with the people around us. We have friends from high school, from college, often from work. We meet someone, we talk, we decide it might be a good idea to start a relationship. But does friendship really require frequent contact? I don’t think so. It’s not an intimate relationship, and we limit ourselves to people close to us when there are billions of people out there looking for soul mates? We often struggle because we feel misunderstood. Sometimes the only reason for that is the environment we live in.
Friendship knows no geographical boundaries, it knows no age difference, it doesn’t care about gender. What it does care about is trust. There’s no friendship without trust, and there’s no trust without vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to show who we really are. And that is the greatest risk. This is the line we are so afraid to cross. Being vulnerable means opening ourselves to potential pain, to being hurt, to being abandoned, to being broken.
We are used to wearing masks and keeping ourselves inside. We are used to pretending that we don’t have emotions, that we don’t love, that we don’t hate. And yet we do. We do all these things. We are afraid, we are scared.
And we are alone.
Loneliness happens when we fear. It can be overcome when we trust and yet we are too afraid to even begin. It’s a painful feedback loop.
I decided once and for all to stop being caught in the loop, I decided to take a risk, to open up and show the people around me who I really am.
If someone hurts me, it’s their problem, not mine. Being vulnerable and open doesn’t mean being a loser. It means being free.
It just means finally being free.