Hans Solo and Chewbacca; Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway; Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King. Each of these pairs represents the power and gift of true friendship. These deep, real, reciprocally vulnerable friendships have the ability to restore, enrich, give meaning, and profoundly change us and the trajectory of our lives. They are a great gift and a blessing.
As we tentatively crawl out of a metaphorical pandemic blender that’s been set on purée, we give thanks for the friends who sustained us as we tumbled down rabbit holes. It was our friends who helped us to counteract loneliness, who listened to our fears and kept us company through loss, who shared the elusive hope that we would once again be together face to face. I dedicate this edition of Leadership Lessons to the power of friendship in our lives.
I am blessed to have had two soulmate friends in my lifetime. A soulmate is defined as a pair of individuals who truly can see, understand, appreciate, and celebrate the other in all of the imperfect renditions of their ‘selves’. We laugh and cry together, finish each other’s sentences, know each other’s Achilles heels, and love each other just the same. Vulnerability and psychological safety are the key attributes that make soulmate friendships sacred.
The likelihood is that you will encounter perhaps one or two soulmate friendships during your lifetime and that’s if you’re lucky. What about the rest of the time? Lillian Rubin, a noted psychologist and author of Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in our Lives, discusses the value of ‘friends in spots.’ Friends in spots includes your work buddies, your tennis partner, the neighbor who collects your mail or packages when you’re away, your Starbucks barista, and the supermarket checkout clerk that you chat with while bagging your groceries. Given the daily trauma and anxiety in which we live, let’s bring light and joy to every possible interaction by cultivating these friends in spots. They maximize the sweetness of human connections by helping us learn more about their lives, in seeking commonalities, and by bringing a smile or an acknowledgment to a connection.
When we sum up the totality of our friends in spots, we amass an entire day interwoven with connection after connection layered with positive mental health interactions and energy through the power of people and community. The world becomes our garden to cultivate and grow through our friendships. It is time to start strengthening and belonging to a world enriched by the people in it. Spring is coming and with the clarion call of Spring, let’s try to bloom in every way possible beginning with nurturing the special gift of our friendships.
5 of My Favorite Songs about Friendship:
- Friends, by Bette Midler
- You’ve Got a Friend in Me, by Randy Newman
- You’ve Got a Friend, by Carole King
- That’s What Friends Are For, by Dionne Warwick and Friends
- Lean on Me, by Bill Withers
5 of My Favorite Books about Friendship:
- Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close, by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
- Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in Our Lives, by Lillian B. Rubin
- The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People, by Rachel Wilkerson Miller
- Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most, by Elizabeth Lesser
- Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, by Brené Brown
5 of My Favorite Friendship Quotes:
- “A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still gently allows you to grow.” – William Shakespeare
- “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – CS Lewis
- “Good friends help you to find important things when you have lost them: your smile, your hope, and your courage.” – Doe Zantamata
- “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer
- “Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anais Nin