Increasingly I am aware that my closest friends – and the friendships I really value – are with people who take a genuine interest in my life and who seek me out.
That ought to be self evident… you’d think… but (perhaps because of the work I do) I am aware that there are plenty of people out there who I spend time with and who I chase up and enquire after, who rarely if ever ask about what is happening in my life, or if they do it isn’t with genuine concern.
Some people tell me all about their life – and I am usually interested, but… if after a while I remain ‘unknown’ or if we never speak of things that concern me and shape my life then I notice it. Or if I am the one doing all the initiating I start to get the impression that they aren’t really that interested.
I realise some people are shy. That’s cool. I realise not all of what I am ‘into’ interests other people. No problem. But what I find hard is people who tell me all about themselves and then have nothing left to say – people who don’t seem to see the importance of asking about my life.
That may sound a bit narcissistic or egoistical, but I don’t think it is. It is to say that in my view the best friendships are a two way street, involve serious engagement with one another’s lives and require us to discuss things that are not always of great concern to us personally.
I think I am usually a pretty good enquirer and a reasonable listener, but over the last few years I have been in several relationships where I have realised the other person knows virtually nothing about my life other than what I have voluntarily given, and I become increasingly aware that I am tiring of the relationship. There comes a point where you don’t want to talk more about yourself because it feels like the other person just isn’t that interested. Its a one way street.
Perhaps the key idea here is that friendship is about having an other focused orientation rather than a self focused orientation. A self focused orientation means I am in a friendship only for what I can get. An other focused orientation means I am in a friendship both for what I can get (let’s be honest) but also largely for what I can give to the other person.
I don’t think anyone is conciously ‘self focused’, but I notice it time and time again. Its on those occasions when I really feel like ‘pastor’, or ‘professional friend’.
I’m very grateful for the small number of close friends for whom friendship is very much ‘two way’, who go out of their way to call me and who enrich my life with their presence.
Like a breath of fresh air.