My last post was focused on the importance of family togetherness, and according to feedback from my wife, I may have inadvertently minimized the importance of friendships in doing so. While it is true that we must prioritize time with our family first, she took exception with my line, "that's all you really need" when referring to time with family. Of course, once she gave me this feedback, it kickstarted a deeper discussion about what is truly essential in life for being content and making an impact in the lives of others. If you are wondering if my wife is making me write this post, so we don't lose the remaining friends we have, the answer is YES. That's a joke...sort of. The point I was trying to make is that if we all have a hierarchy of needs, I believe your immediate family is at the top of that pyramid, or at least should be. The primary idea shared in the prior post was the lack of future regret in prioritizing your family above all other activities. I do not think any of us will regret exclusive time spent with our spouse and children as we grow old.
However, the idea that friendships could mean much more to me than I realize, or am willing to admit, is something I found intriguing. One interesting conclusion Linds and I came to is that in some ways a great friend is even more meaningful than family because they do not have to love you, they choose to. They do not have to spend time with you; they want to. We then both jokingly asked one another if we feel forced to love one another since we are family. Yikes! At about this point in the conversation, I was just hoping this topic of family prioritization would end with our family still intact. We agreed that family could stop loving one another as well, but the consequences are much greater.
By the end of our conversation, she had me fully convinced that the greatest difference in our life over the last few years have not been family at all, it has been friendship. While our immediate family has grown in many ways, it has been constant and steady, and we have always loved one another. However, our new friendships in many ways have made the greatest positive impact in our life and have even been there for us in times of difficulty in ways that even our extended family could not.
As an interesting comparison, friendship reminds me of the development of cities within early civilization. Cities formed to provide protection for their citizens from lawless criminals and bandits. Citizens worked together and learned trades; some grew food, others made clothes, soldiers built walls and patrolled the perimeter. The sum of their parts was much greater than any one individual family. If a family lived in the city but decided to be isolationists and not contribute to society or have relationships with others, even if they loved each other greatly, how effective was the family towards making a positive impact for the greater good? In fact, friendships and other symbiotic relationships in life strengthen your immediate family because everybody is stronger together than apart. This is not an either/or proposition, it's family + friends.
I don't want to be an isolationist! I want to be a friend that provides safety, support, warmth, and more. If a friend gets attacked and falls, just like a city, I think we should fall together. If my friend feels hurt, I want to feel it as well, and if he is successful, I want to celebrate with him. The best friends are always there, through the disagreements, and even when the going gets tough. That's the type of friend I want to be.