I have this friend...well, we've drifted apart lately, but yes, I still consider him a friend...who is apparently lamenting the fact that he has lost a lot of his friends over the years. He used to be a very popular person, with friends everywhere, at work and outside work. People used to go out of their way to enjoy his company. He gets invited to all sorts of get-togethers, all sorts of activities, all sorts of meetings. His presence and input used to be a valuable commodity. Unfortunately it would seem, those days have long passed.
Nowadays he seems to have lost his crowd. The friends that I've seen surround him in the past have all moved on to different groups of friends, different places, different environments, different interests. I guess that includes me.
I find it a bit perplexing why he has to resort to self-pity though. If everyone else moved on, and he feels left behind, it can only be attributed to one of two reasons. It's either he has a problem with his friends, or its his friends who have a problem with him.
I would like to think that friendship as a bond between persons is just like a car or any piece of machinery - it needs to be maintained, to be taken care of, else it breaks down. We maintain or take care of our friendships by making sure that respect and understanding is present. Take away one or the other, or in extreme cases both, the friendship will collapse faster than a house of cards.
Personally, I cannot claim to know everything that has happened to that friend of mine all this time. But if all of his friends have gone out on him, I'm inclined to think that maybe it's his fault, and not his friends'. Of course I could be wrong. Friends will stick with you for as long as there is respect and understanding in the relationship. Once you lose respect for a person...or if you can't understand him or her anymore, its probably a lost cause already.
Most people will agree with me when I say that its very hard to earn respect and gain understanding. Respect, like loyalty, is earned, not demanded, nor given freely to any Tom, Dick or Harry. Understanding is something that is built up over time as well. Like any venture capitalist, we plunk down our investment by giving the time and effort to understand how a person feels, or thinks. And over time that investment bears fruit.
Respect and understanding also breeds trust, loyalty, compassion, and empathy, worthwhile traits to have in any friendship. Unfortunately, respect and understanding are both very fragile. It's very easy to take any of them for granted. Next thing we know, its already lost.
If you think about it, it's quite saddening. But it happens. It happens to the best of us, and it happens to the worst of us. Some of us just don't have the time or motivation to take care of the friendships that we have. Unless, of course, we're referring to friends where the bonds of trust are so deep that virtually nothing can eradicate the respect and understanding. Unless we have friendships of that sort, we have to exert at least some effort to make our friendships last. With proper care, strangers become acquaintances. Acquaintances become casual friends. Casual friends soon become real friends. And real friends are those that will stick by you until the end. If we choose to ignore the importance of respect and understanding, the friends we made will just fall along the wayside, just like what may have happened to my old friend.
And that's probably worth lamenting about.
"Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit."