The Paper Pulpit

Building and maintaining friendships
Jun. 09, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

An English publication offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Thousands of answers were received, but the one that received first prize was this: “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.” If you have no friends who fit this definition, and would like to develop some, the most logical place to begin is to examine your own life. Genuine introspection dares to ask you to give up personality traits that make it difficult to develop and maintain lasting friendships — take, for example, the following:

1. Your need to always be right. Some people can’t stand the idea of being wrong — even at the risk of ending meaningful relationships. Is your ego that big? Every time you feel the urgent need to win an argument, ask yourself this question, “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”

2. Your need to be in control. If you have an insatiable need to be in control of everything around you, you will find it difficult to make and keep friends. Whether this involves family, neighbors, coworkers, classmates or someone you just met — allow them to be themselves. Those who try to control every conversation and every activity push people away.

3. Your need to blame others. It is easy to blame others for what you have or do not have, and for what you feel and do not feel. Politicians generally find it very easy to blame others for anything that goes wrong, but they definitely do not have a monopoly on the practice.

4. Your pessimism. If you lack confidence in what you can do, or of what is possible, you will be left stuck in the place where you are. Pessimists don’t attract many friends. Eckhart Tolle wisely said, “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes destructive.”

5. Your need to constantly complain. If you perpetually complain about everything — people, situations, events that make you unhappy, the weather, etc. — you will not only become miserable, but you will also make everyone around you miserable. Situations and circumstances, even difficult ones, do not trigger your desire to complain; it is your attitude toward situations and circumstances.

6. Your tendency to criticize. Constantly criticizing people, things or events will make it difficult for you to develop and maintain friendships. Expressing a negative attitude to or about those who do things differently than you do them will build walls rather than bridges. Those who can — do; those who can’t — criticize. The best place to criticize is when you stand in front of a mirror. The critic who begins with himself will be too busy to take on outside contracts.

7. Your need to impress others. Trying to be something that you are not just to impress others will not work. Take off your mask and be yourself, and others will more easily accept and embrace you.

8. Your resistance to change. Change is good, for it will help you move from A to B. Change just for the sake of change is not good, but change that is positive and leads to personal growth is healthy.

9. Your tendency to live in the past. The past is history, the future is a mystery, and today is God’s gift. That is why it is called the “present.” Those who are stuck in their yesterdays find it difficult to become productively involved in today’s opportunities or accept challenges that lead toward tomorrow.

10. Your excuses. Pack them up and send them away. You no longer need them. Those who constantly offer excuses not only fail to grow, but soon discover that potential friends have moved away.

11. Your tendency to live by the expectations of others. To live a life that is not yours, to try always to please others will make you less than genuine. Friendship is based on genuineness.

12. Your fears. Fear is just an illusion. It doesn’t exist — you created it in your mind. Correct what is inside you and everything on the outside will fall into place. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Nature, Addresses, and Lectures: The American Scholar, said: “Fear always springs from ignorance.” To be ruled by fear is to lack the kind of sincerity and emotional stability on which friendships are built.

The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.