A Faithful Friend

The other day, I circled back around to one of my favorite books: the heart of the buddha’s teaching (lower case, yes) by Thich Nhat Hanh. You may know it. It’s back on my Sunday reading cycle as it’s been quite a few years since I’ve read it. 

With a view to three dappled dogwood trees, I settled into my reading chair. A ragged newspaper clipping fluttered out, light as a butterfly’s wing. A makeshift bookmark, of course. My curious eyes went to the faded print and I paused:

“The ‘five secrets’…that underlie a healthy relationship or marriage:

  • Hear and understand me.
  • Even if you disagree, please don’t make me wrong.
  • Acknowledge the greatness within me.
  • Remember to look for my loving intentions.
  • Tell me the truth with compassion.”

Wow. Timeless. But why had I made a point of holding onto this bit of wisdom? Of course, I couldn’t recall. Maybe because it was timeless and applied to all relationships that matter deeply.  My mind couldn’t help but go to my Woman Tribe; regardless of how or where we met, some connection deeper than shared experience or circumstance connected us. Without exception, these ways of being and relating were alive and well. Foundational, intentional, sustainable, but not always perfect. I was reminded of budding friendships that were filled with potential and others that withered or soured unexpectedly. Almost always, I sensed one or more of these dynamics in play:

  • Not hearing me and denying the validity of my voice.
  • Making me wrong and setting up a win-lose.
  • Minimizing my greatness, being dismissive.
  • Ignoring my intentions; not allowing a space for my mistakes.
  • Speaking without compassion, chipping away at the love between us. 

Do the “five secrets” make a relationship endure? More specifically, what makes a female friendship ground itself and flourish? Yes, of course that GF of yours puts a crown on your head, tells you that you don’t look fat in those jeans, and otherwise makes you feel special. It’s all good. But when she’s really there for you, she knows how to be present with you, to you, and for you – through everything.  And you know how to do the same for her. When we put those five “secrets” into practice, something extraordinarily enduring happens:

  • I can be who I am and you can be who you are.
  • I don’t try to change you and you don’t try to change me.
  • We accept that sometimes, our “stuff” will get in the way.
  • We love and cherish one another because of … and in spite of…. fill in the invisible blanks!

As I drew in the beauty of the dogwoods, it occurred to me that friendship is about a humble and authentic faithfulness, not perfection.  Then I brought that consciousness to the Buddha’s teaching to see what I could glean. 


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