“The friend is the person whom one is in need of, and by whom one is needed. Life is a sweeter, stronger, fuller, more gracious thing for the friend’s existence, whether he be near or far: if the friend is close at hand, that is best; but if he is far away, he is still there, to think of, to wonder about, to hear from, to write to, to share life and experience with, to serve, to honor, to admire, to love.” –Arthur Christopher Benson, “Friendship,” 1908
The quote above lays out wonderfully the beauty of friendship. Specifically, when I read that quote, I think of how much more special a friendship is when it is able to stand the test of time.
For as long as there has been man, there has been man’s understanding of the need for relationship. We are beautifully and wonderfully made with this same longing woven inside of us.
Because of the inseparable connection between the people we surround ourselves with, and the men we eventually become, it is of utmost importance that all fine gentlemen consistently seek out new relationships in order to bring fresh perspectives and challenging insights into their world-views.
But that gets talked about a lot. There are countless books and seminars about how to form new relationships, and the importance of establishing a support system around you in each season of life.
What I want to focus on today, however, is something that is addressed far less often, but is just as, if not more important to any gentleman’s growth. The importance of maintaining and nurturing the old friendships in your life.
You know who those friends are. The tried and true who have stood the very difficult test of time and still remain in your life today despite distance, major life events, personality changes, believe differences, and any number of other things that tend to drive people apart.
These friends are invaluable, and should be treated as such. Never should we consider a friendship so strong that it needs no attention or care. Even the strongest of bonds can be broken by one or both parties ignoring their role in tending to the relationship.
So do not make the mistake of pressing in any less intensely into your old, and tested relationships. “Pressing in” may look different with a friend who’s been around for 15 years than it does with someone you met last Saturday. But a true gentleman understands the importance of both.
Old friends are able to see into our lives with an extremely valuable perspective. People change so drastically throughout their lives. It’s so important to have someone who has seen you as you were, and who knows you as you are now. With this perspective they are able to give invaluable insight into the areas where you are growing, and the areas where you need improvement. Many people shy away from maintaining old friendships for this reason alone.
It’s difficult to let someone be intimately involved in your present, when they have been so connected to your past. It’s vulnerable and intimidating. But the beauty of walking with someone who has known you through many seasons of your life, is the ability to trust them completely. And that trust must go both ways! You need to be able to trust your old friend as someone who will use their deep understanding of you and your heart as a means to bless you, not to judge or shame you. In the same way, that friend needs to be able to trust you, that as they continue to invest in their relationship with you, you will honor that by reciprocating that intentionality and investment. If you find a friend that is willing to walk with you through all of that and do it with consistency…then gentlemen…hang on to him/her with all you have. Those relationships are the “stuff” that life is made out of.
I could provide any number of tactics and strategies for how to properly maintain an old friendship. But the truth is, each relationship is too unique to provide broad advice like that. So, instead, examine the friendships in your life that apply using the points stated above. Study what it is about those relationships that has allowed them to endure over all these years. Use what you’ve learned from those relationships to build a good foundation on the ones you are establishing in your current season of life, that they may thrive for years to come!
Additionally, identify one specific friend who has been of particular importance in shaping the man you have become today. Reach out to them and remind them of their importance in your past and in your present. Let them know that you are as committed today to fostering a healthy friendship with them as you were the day you first became friends. It’s intentional efforts like this that will strengthen that bond beyond what any trial or difficulty could ever break.
In fact, I ought to go do the same. If you’ll excuse me, I have a phone call to make!
Make it a classy day, gentlemen!