Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The Care and Feeding of Relationships
When I was young, Mama told me “To have a friend, you have to be a friend.” Her statement is as true today as it ever was. However, many people seem to have succumbed to the notion that forwarding cute e-mails constitutes “being a friend.” I think most people have become downright lazy about cultivating friendships and family relationships. Look in your own e-mail inbox. Each time you check it, you probably find several “forwarded” e-mail messages from friends and family members, as I do. How many of these same people send you personal e-mail notes or call you to say hi? My guess is very few or none—unless they want you to do something for them. Yes, I live in the real world. I am aware that people are busy and don’t have time for everything. I also know that people make a little time for people they value, even though they are busy. Many people probably rationalize that forwarding a story is “keeping in touch,” but it’s not really nurturing a relationship. If you call me “friend,” I want to be more important to you than another name to help you avoid the curse promised if you fail to forward an e-mail to ten people the next ten minutes. As your friend, I want to hear about your joys and your hurts, your accomplishments, and your prayer needs. I want the opportunity to be a friend to you. One short personal note or phone call from you has far more value to me than a hundred forwarded e-mails. Most forwarded stories you send have circulated through my inbox several times already. No matter how “cute” or “good” they seem, these e-mails do not replace personal interaction. Your contact does not have to be long to be effective in cultivating a relationship. A three-line note or a five-minute phone call can do wonders to help you really keep in touch with those whose friendship you value. A relationship is a two-way street, a give-and-take situation. Building a healthy relationship requires that both sides invest effort into developing the relationship. If I want a good relationship with you, I have to be willing to invest some of my time into communicating with you; but unless you are also willing to spend some of your time in developing our relationship, it’s a lost cause. Lately I’ve been reflecting on how this situation affects my life. I’ve decided it’s a waste for me to keep devoting energy to several “lost cause” relationships. I’m focusing my time on those people who are working on our relationship from their side too. This means I’ll have fewer relationships to look after and fewer people on my “Friends” list—and more people on my “Acquaintances” list. It means relatives won’t be getting many personal notes and phone calls from me unless they act in response by sharing their family news and ask how things are going with us. If there’s someone in your “Family and Friendship Circle” you haven’t heard from in a while, perhaps it’s because they haven’t received meaningful contact from you in a long time and have given up on getting real communication from you. If someone is not important enough in your life to deserve a wee bit of your time for genuine interaction, they’ll soon get the message and leave you alone. If it’s been a while since you heard from someone whose friendship you value, take a few minutes to write a personal note (by e-mail or snail mail) or give a phone call. If they are interested in a sincere relationship with you, they will respond in due time. That old adage still holds true: To have a friend, you have to be a friend.
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