We form our deepest connections only when we expose our vulnerabilities.
I have had a few conversations lately with friends, they have been wondering why we connect so well while they try and entwine themselves with their new boyfriends. It stumped me for a moment, I wouldn’t particularly see myself as a guru on friendships, it was only two years ago I had none at all, one of the darkest times in my life. Then, if I think about it, I have quite a number of good friends now and more acquaintances than I know what to do with. The thing is, my friends and acquaintances alike are all good people, people I trust. That’s because there is something I do differently from most people, it’s a test if you will, a test to see the inner soul of the people I choose to become friends with.
My friend commented on the fact that she can be open with me, and she isn’t normally with most people, and I said well it must be in her or we wouldn’t be friends. She insisted it must be me and that’s when I realized what it was I did. One of our first decent conversations, it was on my birthday, I put a piece of my heart on the table, it was a painful piece, a piece that forever changed who I was. A few hours later she did the same, put a painful piece of her own down next to mine, a piece that changed her life too. You see our friendship changed after that, those two pieces laid bare fundamentally altered how we could interact. No longer did we have concerns over whether we could trust each other, whether we would judge each other or treat each other with disrespect. The things that changed us lay bare on that table and we each accepted them just as they were.
Another friend, as I was relating this, asked, “But what if they hurt you after you tell them” and to me the answer is simple. I walk away, they aren’t my friends, they never will be and there will be no second chance. I don’t hate those people but I won’t ever forget and I will never respect them, look up to them or think highly of them. These people are toxic for me and I will gain nothing positive by associating with them. I am no longer interested in toxic friendships no matter what benefits it may bring. They might be leaders, pillars of the community, adored by many or even someone I saw as a potential girlfriend; to me they will always be a person who fails to respect people for who they are.
“What if they don’t hurt you, but they don’t reciprocate either?” This question is not quite as simple, but depending on the person then they become just an acquaintance for me. Someone I can trust not to be hurtful but neither can I extend that trust further. They can become friends at a later date if they so choose, but how close will depend on how much of their heart they are prepared to put on the table. I don’t have the time available for lots of close friendships and acquaintances can be just as good company even if the depth of conversation is kept to the shallows.
And if they put a piece of their own heart down? Oh boy it’s a rush. Those childhood friends you have had so many shared experiences with that you know you can trust them with your life; well this is what being vulnerable does. It’s how you make close friends when you don’t have shared experiences. You take a risk with being vulnerable, sure you can get hurt, crushed, ignored or receive empty sympathy but the rewards are well and truly worth it. You end up making a friend who when you are sad, lonely, scared or need a hand when you reach out you know they will be there. If they do the same, you will be there too; you will rearrange heaven and earth to help such a friend in need. You have conversations about the things that truly matter to you, or them, without holding back and the real you, the one without the mask will get to come out to play. You can let your inner crazy free knowing your friends will still like you for who you are.
You see this is the secret I learnt from having no friends for a time, why I can be completely open with my friends and them to me. I was a dying man in the middle of the desert, most people will have no idea how badly I craved that basic connection to other people. I had to create my own oasis and in the process I discovered there are lots of thirsty people. People wander all sorts of paths during their lives and often they lose those childhood close friends. Sure they have acquaintances and friends but that closeness they developed in childhood friends has gone. I see them now, they are stuck, partially connected to the people around them but never fully enough and they don’t know how to change that. It is vulnerability which opens that oasis, lets that connection flow out nice and deep and yes, often you have to be courageous enough to be vulnerable first.
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
Also by Luke Davis
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