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Seven steps to true friendship

"We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend." Robert Louis Stevenson.

"True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable." Dave Tyson Gentry.

1. Be interested in people. Genuinely. It is the simplest, easiest way to develop a connection with a fellow "traveler" in this world of joy and grief. What is important to them? what inspires them? What are their interests, their passions? Are they facing a challenge in their life? Where were they born? What are their favorite books or movies? When we are genuinely interested in another person and in what is going on in their life, we open the door to the experience of communion from whence all friendship springs.

2. Choose wisely. Go where you will in this world, there is no one who has not been scarred in some way by the pain and hardship of human nature -- just as there is no one in whom the light of truth does not dwell, untouched and untroubled by any of the misfortune and adversity of this world. The point is, however, that you need to be wise when it comes to making friends. Do not let yourself become a hostage to your need for friendship. Do not, for example, let yourself drift along in an unhealthy relationship with a person who is obsessively needy or controlling. There are many, many people in this world in whom true character IS evident -- a quality of sweetness, perhaps, a confident, victorious attitude toward life -- choose from among this fertile tribe.

3. Be willing to change. Obviously, you cannot promise you will never make a mistake. What you can promise is that if you do make a mistake, then as soon as you see it, you will acknowledge it. Rather than trying to deny it, you will face up to it, and apologize, if this is appropriate. This does not diminish you in some way. On the contrary, it shows your integrity. You are person who honors truth -- so rather than seeing a mistake as some kind of blemish, you see it as an opportunity to let something be changed and healed in yourself.

4. Be patient. A true friendship is not built in a day. It takes time to get to know another person -- and it takes time for them to get to know you. "You don't know my heart," I used to say to my wife JoAnn in the early days of our marriage when trouble arose – and of course I didn't really know her heart yet then either. We are all "works in progress," but if you are patient, and true to your core values, you will come to see the timeless beauty of your friend with ever increasing clarity and joy.

5. No grudges. Holding a grudge shuts the door on the experience of true friendship. It puts a bullet through its heart. More than that, however, it makes it very clear that the person who holds the grudge is not possessed of the essential humility and flexibility of character that alone makes a true friendship possible. As the American journalist Sydney J. Harris wrote, "If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size?"

6. A common interest. You don't need to be the same as somebody else to know a creative friendship with them. Differences, even big differences, can add to the juice of your friendship because they may complement one another. But a common interest -- a shared value of some kind -- is essential. It provides a point of connection that helps to hold two people together. My wife and I couldn't be more different in an outer sense but we both cherish truth and inner peace. Here is the glue that has sustained us in our journey together to this point.

7. Listen to your inner voice. You are not alone in this world, no matter what your mind may sometimes say. Grace is with you, the grace of your own true nature, the grace of the divine. Wisdom is with you too, flowing from the same source. Listen to your own inner knowing. Listen to the nudge that comes to you from within that says, "Do this" -- or, perhaps, "Don't do this." Know that there is a gracious hand on your life and if you play your part everything will work out to perfection.


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