As I age, I begin to appreciate the many things that come with age.
Among other things, understanding the importance of real friendships.
Real friendships are fearless on many levels. By the way, when I say “fearless” – I do not mean empty valour, or blind faith, or even hollow loyalty.
What I mean is fearless honesty, fearless understanding, and above all, fearless love.
Please do not confuse fearless honesty with being blunt. There is a real difference between being truthful with the motivation to hurt, and being truthful to be kind.
Real friends do not gossip or bitch about us behind our backs. They tell us off right in front of our faces because they care about us, and do not want to see us making a huge mistake or a fool of ourselves. They will personally become the “human barriers” to stop our fall from grace, if need be. They rather be safe than sorry, and they show it in the way they treat us at our time of need.
True friends are as honest with us, as we are with them. The space between us and our true friends is cultivated by the kind of honesty that is both nourishing for the mind as well as the heart.
In my personal experience, those who sang my praises during my ‘coronation’ were also the very ones who applauded the loudest during my ‘beheading’. They were either present to watch a ‘show’, or they were merely interested in seeing me suffer. There will always be envious/jealous, mean or ‘crazy’ individuals. We cannot be held responsible for the vile and ill thoughts/feelings they harbour when we have done or said nothing to them. It’s on them, and not on us.
I remember when I was at Primary School, two girls decided to create a rumour about me. The details escape me now, but it was something along the lines of me harassing them. I never understood why they wanted to create this rumour in the first place. It remains a mystery to this day. However, the rumour was spun into a story and soon it became a fact although I did nothing to them. Before I knew it, I had to be punished for my ‘crimes’. So, the Principal decided to make an example out of me by conducting a “public spanking” at school. I was only seven years old then, and did not know what hit me. The Principal pulled me up on stage, lifted up my skirt and spanked me with the cane in front of the whole school assembly. Two weeks later, the very same two girls responsible for starting that rumour came and apologised to me. A little too late, I would say.
At that time, my real friends protested and defended me. Unfortunately, they fell on deaf ears. My brave younger sister even went to see the Principal to explain. She got an earful from the Principal for defending me. It was not until my parents marched into school and threatened to sue the school that the Principal apologised. But it was not a public apology. So, you see, I learnt from an early age what real friends are NOT like.
As I grew older, I myself have been the “guilty culprit” and have committed my fair share of grave mistakes. My greatest sin was not being there for a dear friend in 1999. At that time, I was too caught up with my own wedding plans and personal issues to even notice that my friend was calling out to me. I was even too busy to return any of her calls, until it was too late. By the time I got around to having time for someone else, I learnt that she had already passed away. My friend knew that she was dying from an incurable disease and she was calling upon all the friends whom she wanted to spend ‘quality time’ with before her time was up. I was one of the privileged few she wanted to see, but I did not make time for her. When I could finally come to see her, it was at her funeral. This is something I will always regret to this day, and I vow that I would never do that to another friend. Ever. Again.
Since that day, my real friends and I made a pact to always stay fearless in our honesty. We would always stand by one another to give each other the courage to right the wrongs. They would not allow me to get away with murder, so-to-speak, but at the same time, they would not judge me. And I would do the same for them.
In many respect, my real friends have inspired me to be a better woman than I could ever be on my own.
It is not easy to understand someone completely. It takes time, a great deal of effort and immense care. However, in understanding someone, we are brought closer to them and an invaluable bond is born, as a result. One would have to allow people into your life, and into your heart. In return, they would have to earn your trust. Likewise, we would have to do the same for them. With time and the various experiences we go through together, we begin to learn more about one another. This is where a deeper understanding can arise – when we allow it to flourish, that is.
It is impossible to dislike someone who has gone through hell and back with us. Similarly, it is almost impossible not to know a person better when we have experienced something significant together.
These days, I do not keep the company of many friends. Frankly, they have all ‘proved’ themselves over the years and through the various situations. This is why I would always say that I’d rather see what a person is truly made of sooner than later.
These days, my real friends can be counted with one hand and they are truly more than enough. They fill my life with richness that’s beyond measure. They have been there for me, with me and lived through many significant moments together with me. It is impossible not to treasure friends like that. It is also through these experiences and moments that we became closer and learnt so much about each other. Hence, it does take time. Because only time will bring about the different circumstances to test us and the people around us. How we each respond and treat one another will reveal everything about ourselves as well as them, in every instance.
This is why I am also a firm believer that great friendships, like great love, takes time. It cannot happen without fearless deep understanding of one another. And without this fearless understanding, it cannot grow into a profound fearless love.
As I have said many times before, there are many types of love. There is love for the parents, children, siblings, friends, lovers, mentors and etc. There are also many different levels of love – friendship love, romantic love, spiritual love and etc. However, to me, the greatest form of love is fearless.
It is not fearless because it is disrespectful, nor is it fearless because it is vain or self-serving. It is fearless because it has the courage to be honest, understanding and kind despite all our flaws and weaknesses. It does not thrive on ego trips, nor does it need to re-affirm itself by putting others down or attacking the other person. Its greatness does not lie in others’ weakness. In fact, it nurtures and celebrates the strengths of others.
If one has suffered or known pain in any way or form, one would not knowingly want to inflict more pain and suffering onto others. Those who are in pain or are insecure, are usually the ones who inflict the most pain unto others – not to mention onto themselves. Those who are secure and understand love, will always seek to spread more love and will work to shower more love unto others.
It is not a secret that I have had my fair share of relationships and even been married before. If there is one thing I have learnt from my past relationships and marriage, we cannot really love someone when we don’t understand what it means to love. Many relationships started from a spark of fire, passion, attraction, lust or whatever you wish to label it. However, after the sizzle subsides, reality sets in. Then when troubled times come calling, we will bear witness to how every individual breaks one another instead of coming together to resolve the situation. They use their time and efforts to hurt each other rather than help one another. Yes, they end up “wrecking” each other.
As hard as this may sound, it is really during the tough times that we see the real level of love we hold for one another. Similar to friendships, it is during the bad times when we need our friends most of all. Those who will stay to fight with you, and not just fight you are the ones who truly care for you.
For example, when you are too drunk to drive, a good friend will drive you home safely and not take advantage of your intoxicated state. A real friend will even hold your hair up and help you when you need to throw up. He or she may even stay the night by your side just to make sure that you are ok. Or, when a single parent needs to cancel his date for the third time in a row because he has a problem with the sitter, his girlfriend will not go “ballistic”.
There are many examples which I can list. Some require certain personal sacrifices. In our hearts, we know that the person who is there for us, day in and day out, is the one we will come to cherish because he or she is someone we can count on. This has got nothing to do with us becoming “floor mats” for others to walk all over us, or us becoming the constant “sacrificial lamb” for someone else. It is about knowing what’s truly important and understanding what we need to do at certain times for those we love. We certainly do not keep scores about who has done more than the other on a weekly basis. As much as we want someone to be there for us when we need them to be, we need to know when to be there for that someone when they need us.
Fearless love does not fear life or love. It fears never having lived or loved.
Thus, this is why I value all my fearless true friends. They have seen and know all about me – the bad, the good, the ugly, the crazy and the freaky – yet, they still love me. They have never once made me feel ugly, inadequate or insignificant. All they do is motivate and inspire me to be better by constantly reminding me of my greater potential, in a loving manner.
In truth, the basis of all great relationships begins with true friendships.
I am eternally grateful for all my dearest darling friends and loved ones. I return their love and kindness by being a fearless real friend to them.
As always, start your own brand of fearless living and love the life you live. Don’t wait until it is too late.