Saturday, April 9, 2016

Nurturing friendships

My college roommates and me in Reston Town Center, April 2013
The authors of NutureShock write that the best predictor of how loving a child will be to his future sibling is how well he treats his best friend. That is because unlike family – with whom you are bound for life, willingly or not – friends can and likely will abandon you if you treat them poorly, whereas siblings can eschew manners and sensitivity to one’s feelings with reckless abandon. Having and nurturing satisfying non-familial friendships and relationships is a fundamental priority for so many people as social beings. Even more, having and cultivating healthy, meaningful relationships – especially outside your immediate family – is a sign of emotional maturity.

Through all the challenges inherent to being a yuppie and specific for my life circumstances in particular, I realized that the most true and worthwhile friendships are those in which each party gains mutual benefit, and walks away from these interactions – no matter how infrequently these encounters are, if the friendships are long-distance – feeling even better about themselves than when they had entered. These are friends who will add you to their nightly prayers if you’re having a particularly hard time in life, will listen to you without judgment if you’re facing a difficult dilemma about your significant other, or attend to your stream of consciousness as you describe how you’ve found yourself in a career funk. These are not the people who will exploit your shortcomings and weaknesses, gossip about you, or manipulate every opportunity to show how mightily superior they are to you. After all, those most likely to gossip about or diminish their friends’ legitimate achievements are the most insecure.

I’m lucky to have five of six very close friends who embrace me for who I am, and who I can confide in. Between working full-time, dabbling in school, and having a long daily commute, there is limited free time to spend with people, so why spend it among those who are undeserving of your friendship?

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