My friend, Stan told me that when we met – in Mr. Fullerton’s grade 9 English class – and became close friends, he found that we talked about things at a level and depth that was totally new to him.
We didn’t just talk about homework, movies, music and which girls we thought were hot. We talked about our emotions – the roller coaster ride of adolescence, the ever evolving tensions in our family relationships . . . and our fears.
We talked about our dreams – our grand ambitions to grow up and take over the world (not in a fiendish megalomaniacal villainous way but in a positive influential fashion). We imagined ourselves as great novelists, screenwriters or scientists.
We continued an ongoing dialogue on how we each saw the big picture – the meaning of life. Who is God? How is he manifest in our lives? What happens after this life? Where do we find meaning?
Having this depth of relating expanded our own self- and mutual-awareness and our adolescent minds. It transformed how we related to others. Friends aren’t just people who share common interests, exchange favours and like to hang out together.
Over time, good friends create a deeper emotional and spiritual connection that can transcend the inevitable changes of life, our marriages, moving away, career and study. Indeed, that connection allows us to transcend our separate selves and our own self-interests.
That quality is absent in many other friendships, most notably in boys and young men. Many young men are not so in touch with their own feelings and seldom are able to discuss them with even their best friends. Even fewer step back and look at the big picture and reflect on their most important relationships against the backdrop of their lives so far.
When I had become good friends with a med school classmate who was four years older than me, he told me that in all his friendships, he had never talked about how he felt in this way. I couldn’t imagine having good friends with whom I didn’t.