Last week I attended the funeral of a good, long-time friend who died just before New Year.
The crematorium was packed to overflowing and many familiar faces were dotted amongst the crowd of people who had come to pay their last respects. The service contained some real heartfelt tributes and as usual, we all learnt things about our friend we didn’t previously know.
The tributes were glowing: he was dedicated, hardworking, reliable, a loving husband and father … but one phrase amongst these tributes hit me harder than anything else in the service; it was the simple phrase,
“If only he knew how much he was appreciated and loved by others.”
And that set me thinking.
I had known him for nearly 30 years, yet how often had I told him that I valued his friendship and counsel? How often had I said, “You’re a good friend” or “I appreciate you” or “If you ever want to chat, I’m here.”
Now I know it’s very easy to become introspective at funerals and think about the ‘what ifs’ and ‘If onlys’ of life, but I do think those few challenging words are very significant: to me and to everyone in friendships or relationships.
We all need friendships and relationships to function at our best. Many will be long-standing; some will be more recent; some will be brand new. Whatever their status, a key factor for their success is our input (the one thing we can control), both in terms of quality and quantity.
Why do we have relationships?
We’re human beings and we need personal contact: without it we’re potentially heading for potential health risks and psychiatric disorders/imbalances. If it were not so, why is solitary confinement used as a form of torture to break down resistance and extract information/cause harm and suffering?
The nature of relationships will vary depending on their context e.g., personal relationships will be different to business relationships, but the core requirements are pretty consistent regardless of their context. Three common scenarios are:
‘I’m in it for what I can get out of it’: most of these are doomed to problems and failure, and are not actually true relationships.
‘I’m in it for what I can put into it’: these are far more likely to work if the action is reciprocated by the other party(ies).
‘I’m in it for how we can support and help each other‘: these are the most likely to survive and thrive through good and bad times.
An important part of a relationship is face-to-face contact. Many of these face-to-face interactions carry far more value than we realise since many non-obvious factors like expression, body language, touch etc, reinforce our words and actions. It’s at these times that we can really build each other up and make the other person feel valued and important. It may be a natural part of our relationship or we may have to work at it. Whichever is true, it is important.
Attending my friend’s funeral has reminded me of the importance of these ‘personal’ moments and of my responsibility to help make my relationships successful.
If we are successful in just this area, we will have made a difference to other people’s lives and, I believe, made a difference to our own life too, because as our behaviour changes in one area it will almost certainly impact many other areas of our life at the same time … and surely that can only be a bonus.