In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle our inner spirit.
I have a friend I got to know in the 1980s. We had an instant connection: we both liked disco, we both came from similar backgrounds and we didn't do well in sports. But, we were ambitious off the playing field, outgoing, outspoken and we wanted the same things out of life.
I see our friendship as divine providence, as a gift from god. I don’t get to speak much to him now. He has a family in a faraway state, and I have mine. But when we do reconnect there is an instant something that happens that I can't explain.
It was like I had always known him and always will.
Many of us are fortunate to have such a friend with whom we feel kinship. It may be a brother or a sister, a distant relative, someone from the old neighborhood or that kid from our church group. Distance, whether in time or miles, means nothing with these friends.
When I think about my friend, I think, why can't I have that kind rapport with others I know? Why do I have only a few close friends? How can I have such an open relationship with others?
George Washington said, "Be courteous to all, but intimate with few and let those few be well-tried before you give them your confidence." I hope he's wrong. I cherish the relationships I have with these life-long friends and I actually crave more.
When I try to piece together reasons why I made these friends, I fall short. The answer is like so many good questions about relationships — I just don’t know. But there are characteristics of the relationship that I can identify, from every similar relationship that matters to me.
Here are eight characteristics of a real friend.
We have similar goals and values
We may differ in how to get there, but our aim is the same. We want many of the same things for ourselves and our families and communities.
There are core interests
Somewhere there are similarities in what you enjoy. Sports, music, theater, laughter and family. In lasting relationships, there are common interests.
We share a common history
Few things solidify a friendship than fighting a common enemy. Fighting through a similar experience brings people together more quickly than anything I know.
There is parity
Relationships have a natural balance. When one friend is needier than the other friend, the relationship becomes off kilter in a hurry. There are times when one friend is strong and the other weak, and there should be times when the roles reverse. Give and take, and take and give.
A real friend inspires you to do your best. He wants you to succeed. When he is around you are a better person. A true friend is like a cheerleader or a coach. He makes you feel confident.
He listens to what you have to say
A true friend appreciates your point of view. He may even just let you vent. He listens as much as he talks.
Real friends tell each other the truth
He'll say hard things if it is in your best interest — even if it risks the relationship. He is committed to your well-being. My friend knows me well enough to know when I'm fishing for a compliment. He acknowledges that I'm fishin', and then gives me a real compliment. You won’t have to find out how he feels from someone else. True friends stab you in the front, not the back. OK, they wouldn't stab you — but you get the point.
He wouldn't ask you to put the relationship above your principles
A real friend will never get in the way unless you are headed for a fall. When he is your friend he won't ask you to compromise your principles. Often, he will have the same principles and would expect the same from you.
Birds of a feather, hang out together
The most effective way to attract a friend that is true is to be a true friend yourself. Go through the above list again and make the attributes personal goals if they aren't your characteristics already. Strive to be the friend you want to have.
Now, get out and find people of a similar mindset. Do the things you like to do. Join groups that represent your personal values and interests, because people who feel the same way will be there. Now introduce yourself.
There is a certain something, an ingredient that is responsible for attracting friends for life. Frankly, I still don't know what it is. All I know is that when I talk to my friend, I feel refreshed and invigorated. I feel like I am home.