In the last few years reading books and articles regarding friendship has become a pastime of mine. My primary reason for this is because I desire to be a good friend. However, I must admit that having lost several friendships over the years has caused me to place a great deal of importance on understanding and changing my failures in this area. It seems as I grow older the greater value I place on friendships that have endured the ups and downs of life. I desire to know how they survived and flourished! So when I stumbled across a book called Fabulous Friendship Festival by SARK I couldn’t resist purchasing it just in case it held some of the solutions I had been seeking. The author is a woman close to my age who seems a bit eccentric, but who has faced relationship struggles and come through them having learned some very profound lessons.
Upon cracking open the first few pages of this book, I was surprised when I read her first premise. She believes everyone needs to be a good friend to themselves in order to be a better friend to others. Intrigued by this concept, I read on until one of her statements brought me up short. She said, “We often grant to other friends what we won’t grant to ourselves. And, whatever we don’t accept in a friend is usually what we don’t accept in ourselves.”
Immediately a scripture came to mind . . . “love your neighbor as yourself” Mt. 22:39. Could it be that how I love myself — or not love myself — literally affects how I love my neighbor or not love my neighbor? If I don’t forgive myself does it affect my ability to forgive my friends? If I don’t accept their flaws, is it because I expect myself to be perfect and project expectations of perfection onto them? These questions flooded my mind, but one overshadowed them all. Wouldn’t loving myself be equated with being self-centered or selfish?
The dictionary defines selfish as “only caring about ones own needs; concerned primarily with ones own interest, benefits and welfare”. But what if loving myself was simply granting myself forgiveness whenever I believed I’d fallen short in some aspect of my life? Or not berating myself in my mind when I felt as though I had not said or done the right thing in any given situation? Perhaps it could simply be treating myself more kindly in moments when I want to be mad at myself, or laughing at my mistakes rather than trying harder to be perfect.
At this point in my mental debate an impression crashed into my thinking — try it — do what the book of James advises, “be a doer of the word and not a hearer only.” Try consciously loving myself and see what happens in my relationships with my friends? If it causes me to become more self-centered, then abandon the idea but keep looking for answers to becoming a better friend.
For a couple weeks now I’ve been exploring this concept, while endeavoring to guard against becoming self-centered. I started doing the previously mentioned ideas . . . forgiving myself, not placing impossible expectations on myself every day, being kind in my thinking towards myself, and laughing at myself when I made a mess of things.
In a very short time I found a greater sense of joy, along with being more verbally expressive of my gratitude toward others. New ideas regarding encouraging and strengthening my family and friends filled my mind. Actions followed and I began reaching out in new ways to others. It seemed light had permeated my soul and I had moved beyond my designated comfort zones in my relationships. What I granted myself I was now granting to my friends and what I was learning to accept about myself resulted in a greater acceptance of them.
Today I am very aware that my inner privacy fence has been being dismantled and I have stepped out into uncharted places. I can say from my heart . . . I am learning to love myself not because I want to be self indulgent, but because I want to be a good friend. Overall, this step feels right, so I’m pursuing it. Only time will reveal if this pursuit will bear long-lasting, enduring friendships.
Has anyone else tried this? Have you been taught to live and love this way — or not? Do you see it working in your friendships today? I want to learn! Your insights or opposition to the idea are welcome.