Our friendship groups, therefore, need to evolve over time. We need to be kind in our everyday life towards all people whose paths we cross. As we seek to enrich the lives of others and, in turn, benefit from what they bring to our own lives in terms of emotional and interpersonal growth, we should avoid, as best as we can, moving through the world judging people before we know them well. We need to keep an open mind about the possibility of connecting with others, learning from them, and forming friendships in the process. Thus, while we should hold those close to us near, we shouldn't shut others out.
While making new friends is a fluid process for some of us, for others it’s quite difficult. What is clear is that as we grow in experience, even the most painfully shy of us can build the confidence and skills to begin new friendships. The most difficult step is usually the first one, when overcoming the fear of rejection seems impossible. As with all new competencies, the advice and support of mentors who can help us rehearse and prepare for encounters in a constructive fashion should not be underestimated. It's also important for us not to judge ourselves adversely if we do find it challenging to strike up a conversation. We should believe we always have something to offer people and that what we have to offer is interesting and substantial, even if it is just a simple kindness or fleeting smile.
It’s also important that once we've made friends, we make the effort to be a good friend. Maintaining our availability, generosity, and thoughtfulness with those around us is a reciprocal need. There are times when we will need our friends and there are times when they will need us to feel supported and loved. And so it all comes down to the character of selflessness, our willingness to give of ourselves in small and big ways to those about whom we care.
We can contemplate our Friendship Groups by considering the following questions:
- Do I enjoy arguing with my friends about how best to live and what it means to flourish?
- Do I have at least one good friend whom I know would be there for me if I needed help of any sort?
- Do I go out of my way to be friendly with people who aren’t “just like me” and who help me to see the world from different perspectives?
- Do I find it easy to make new friends and to keep old ones?
- Am I someone my friends can count on if they need someone to talk to about a difficult personal issue?