The world is full of people who present themselves friendly but are not friends. A warm greeting, a friendly smile when you encounter them…but then nothing. New widows experience this too often. It never ceases to be a painful surprise—learning how many presumed friends are not there for you when your husband dies. These are among the secondary losses that no one warned us about.
As I write in Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows:
Cultivating relationships for business or personal reasons is not friendship; it is networking. Many of us, when asked to introduce ourselves, described ourselves by our relationships, “I’m so-and-so’s wife, so-and-so’s mother.” We did not have an identity of our own. Our identity came primarily through our husbands, their work, their success, their reputation, and even their friends. Now that identity is gone. People who we thought were friends were really only cultivating our husbands. Without him, we do not matter.
Not quite so painful—recognizing those who turned out to be crossroads friends. Our lives intersected at some point, and our friendship lasted as long as we were all at the same place. The relationship was based on activities and organizations that we shared in common. We had nothing deeper to maintain the friendship when we left the intersection to go in different directions. It could be couples whose husbands worked or hunted or fished or played golf together. It could be a couples card group or Bible study or dance club. Without the husband, the widow was no longer included.
According to Kenneth H. Blanchard, author of The One-Minute Manager, “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”
This applies equally as well to people as to things. I need to be the kind of friend who is not merely interested but committed, responding to friends’ needs whether it is convenient or not. I have not always been a committed friend. I had sympathy but not empathy. When I did not know what to say or do, I stayed away. I tended to put my good works and my big projects ahead of relationships. Now I know that relationships are everything—relationships with friends, family, God. Without them, joy will be exceedingly difficult to claim.
Feel free to share your personal experiences—good and bad—with your friends.
Do you agree with me on the importance of relationships? Why or why not?
What you do want most from your friends?