The fourth regret of the dying, according to Bronnie Ware (see previous posts), is not staying in touch with friends. One of the most beautiful passages on friendship was penned by the renowned theologian and author, Henri Nouwen…
Friendship is one of the greatest gifts a human being can receive. It is a bond beyond common goals, common interests, or common histories. It is a bond stronger than sexual union can create, deeper than a shared fate can solidify, and even more intimate than the bonds of marriage or community. Friendship is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly. Blessed are those who lay down their lives for their friends.
In my mind, true friendship is a heart-centered connection that deepens through authentic communication and unwavering commitment. Time is not the key ingredient. Understanding is. Our most enduring friendships, according to Nouwen, are not the people who have given us advice or cures for our ailments, but those who have been able “to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”
Staying “in touch,” as Bronnie Ware writes, means so much more than simply making time for friendship; it means allowing ourselves to be touched in the most vulnerable of ways. We can be friends on the surface without truly understanding another’s feelings. We can catch up on the latest gossip, share a laugh or two, vent frustrations, and whine about co-workers and kids. Yet still, we can be out-of-touch with what’s really going on with each other at our core.
Recently, I came to terms with a loss of a friendship. I didn’t want to say goodbye, for we shared many common goals, interests, and histories. Yet still, I felt I wasn’t receiving the gift I deserved. The “unity of souls” that Nouwen so beautifully writes about was missing. I hadn’t accepted this truth until recently, mostly because, I hadn’t believed that I was deserving of this amazing type of bond. I feared being vulnerable, telling my friend how I truly felt about a conflict. I took a risk. I had to, for I longed for a deeper connection–a unity of souls. Sadly, I didn’t receive the understanding I had hoped for. But thankfully, she gave me the opportunity to tell her how I felt.
A unity of souls begins with emotional honesty. Next month I’ll conclude my series on the Five Regrets of the Dying with the last wish expressed by Ware’s patients–finding the courage to express our feelings. I hope you’ll join me.