Fundamentally I am an introvert. I am unusually at peace alone and can find comfort in my own company (and my own wild and crazy thoughts). I am most comfortable alone while eating, going to movies, going to events, or traveling. There are, in fact, times when I actually prefer solitude—no one else to please or cajole or talk to even.
I still recall a decade ago when my wife and son went away for a week without me. Freakin heaven! Yet, I was ready for them to return after a week. I wanted to be with “my people” (my wife and son).
How about you? Extravert or introvert? Or are you a bit of both? Most of us are a bit of both, but still leaning toward one state or the other. The bottom line is that, whether extravert or introvert, WE ALL NEED OTHER PEOPLE. In the past I’ve referred to these people as “your tribe,” consisting of varied circles of closeness and commitment.
A Guide for Friendship
As I read through my highlights from Seneca’s, Letters from a Stoic I discovered insightful thoughts about the art of being a friend. The first thought I took from Seneca echoes what’s written above, “And this is what we mean when we say a wise man is self-content; he is so in the sense that he is able to do without friends, not that he desires to do without them.”
He goes on to write some thoughts that I want to use as a “guide to making and keeping essential friendships.”
1st: Be Your Own Friend
Seneca: “I am beginning to be my own friend. Such a person will never be alone, and you may be sure he is a friend of all.”
Jesus said it like this, “… love your neighbor as yourself.” While most all of us have heard this statement, but how many of us have really paid attention to the second half—to love yourself?” According to Jesus and Seneca, the love of other people is based on how much you love yourself. Ouch! I think very, very few of us actually believe that we “love ourselves,” yet real love of someone else requires it.
For a long, long time I struggled with the idea of loving a self (me) that I so often didn’t even like. Haha. That is until recently I was with a group of people chatting. One of the women talked about how she learned to love herself. Wow. I had to ask the secret.
It’s no secret she told me. Actually, it’s quite easy: “Just be nice to yourself.” Take care of your needs, sometimes splurge on yourself, and ALWAYS forgive yourself. There are more, to be sure. But if you did just these three I bet you’ll discover someone pretty cool—YOU. Sometimes I secretly feel like I want to be special, when the truth is I just need to… be me.
If you like me, that’s really great; if you don’t… join the line! I can’t control your thoughts and feelings and I have no desire to do so by jumping through your hoops.
2nd: Look for Opportunities for Mutual Improvement
Seneca: “Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those you are likely to improve.”
In November 2015 I was sitting in an extremely high-end cigar bar in the Dominican Republic with a famous baseball player, my son and another MLB rookie. Smoking cigars (I don’t even smoke), them with Presidente Lite and me with espresso and sparkling water, we spent almost two hours till around 2:00 AM just talking—men stuff. You know: baseball, guns, girls, life philosophy, unrepeatable jokes, all blended with trash talk.
Man I can’t tell you how much I miss “the locker room” where guys can be just crude and deeply philosophical and happy “guys.” It is in these light-hearted gatherings that you actually improve each other. You can talk about personal concerns and gain advice from others who deal with the same issues you do.
For that reason we form our tribes of “our people.” Ones who actually get us and accept us in our slovenly as well as beautiful selves. We really do need each other. You cannot make it all alone. While solitude is enlightening, loneliness is intolerable.
3rd: Seek First to Serve, Not to be Served in a Friendship
Seneca (extended quote): “… the wise and self-sufficient man as he is, still desires to have a friend if only for the purpose of practicing friendship and ensuring that those talents are not idle… not for the purpose of having someone to come and sit beside his bed when he is ill or come to his rescue… on the contrary, he may have someone by whose sickbed he himself may sit or whom he himself can rescue…”
Jesus said the same thing, only shorter: “For the Son of Man [Jesus] did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life…” He is also quoted as saying, “It is better to give than to receive.”
The three of us in my family have a long-standing Christmas tradition: we all write individual letters saying why and how much we love each other. It’s so cool. We look forward to the letters as much or more than the gifts. In fact my son and I have a long-running contest to see who’s letter makes mom cry the most. So much fun!
I’m lucky. As an ex-minister, baseball coach, and executive coach in business, my job in life has been to serve others. Honestly one of my primary goals in life is to help others be successful. I have no doubt you understand exactly what I am saying. The act of love remains possibly the most rewarding thing you will ever do. And “the acts of love” are simply acts of service to the needs of others.
You Can’t Make It Alone
There are times I believe Eric Church was thinking of me when he wrote, “I’m hard to love and even harder to live with”—just ask Pam. Haha. Nah, I’m not quite THAT bad, nevertheless there are times those lines scream absolute truth. If you’re smiling that’s only because you are the same way.
You absolutely can’t make it alone. You gotta have a tribe or even a handful of them—family, church, organizations, committed groups of friends, whatever it is that includes other aliens like you. I can’t think of a more important psychological need than the need to be accepted, especially by people you consider significant.
As usual, here are some tips:
- Make a list of your people. How many tribes are you a member of?
- Evaluate the time you devote to friendship. Acknowledge which friendships take too much of your time and which ones you want to spend more time with.
- After you identify your top 2 or 3 groups or individuals, set-up a time to meet with each of them.
- Next… just do it.
You Can’t Make It…
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