Lend Me Your Hand (chapter 1)

LEND ME YOUR HAND (Chapter 1): Building Deliberate Friendships...Why Friendship?

"Stephen, my mother, doesn't have a friend, and she's doing fine. I want to continue in that regard. Because my mother never had friends, we never had trouble lurking around us. I want to see you, talk to you and help if need be, and then forget about you. I don't want to get attached. . ." The above is a dialogue I had a long time ago with a beautiful lady who turned out to be my buddy.

Notice her statement, ". . .we never had trouble. . ." Hold on tightly to it as we'd be back to discuss more on that. Without mincing words, there are fears that hinder and discourage many from making friends.

Here are three (3) of those fears:

1. The fear of burning out.

2. The fear of becoming overly attached.

3. The fear of imminent danger (trouble).

This is not absolute. I want you to know that there are other fears which contribute to people's apathy when it comes to the subject of friendship. This chapter will cover the last of the three types of fear mentioned earlier—The fear of an imminent danger (trouble). Remember, I said hold on tightly to a statement made by my friend. Now, let's get back to it. ". . .we never had trouble. . ."

What kind of trouble can possibly come from the sweet stream called friendship? While growing up, you must have heard about different sorts of friendship and, how friends would jilt you and leave you dry, how the people you trusted would cause your misfortune. Even at that, you desire friendships, but who wants trouble? So, you steer clear.

Contrary to what you might have heard, I disagree with the notion that friends would stab you. In my opinion, "Friends don't stab." Rather, any friend that stabbed you was never a friend, to begin with. It was simply time to reveal the intent and folly of their heart. For that, you should be thankful. Even the devil comes as an angel of light. "What about those persons that stuck to me like peanut butter to jelly? Those I called friends betrayed me and served me breakfasts. Those I trusted with my secret turned their backs against me. Those I sacrificed my all for but left me in my low moments. Are you implying they were never my friends in the first place?" Take a close look at the misconception. You do not know who a friend is, so you have allowed what a friend isn't to fool you. The fact that they flock around you and people call you both friends is not a qualifying factor for friendship!

The first question we should be asking ourselves is: "Who is a friend?" According to the Urban Dictionary (2019), "A friend is someone you love and who loves you, someone you respect and who respects you, someone whom you trust and who trusts you. A friend is honest and makes you want to be honest, too. A friend is loyal." A friend is someone who sticks with you, notwithstanding the circumstances. In friendship, you're able to bare your soul and the ponderings of your heart to another human. You enjoy having fun together and knowing that they aren't perfect; you embrace their imperfections and flaws while helping each other become better versions. Let's take a look at what other people have to say about friendship: "Friendship is a strong and habitual inclination in two persons to promote the good and happiness of one another." —Eustance Budgell.

"And what is a friend? More than a father, more than a brother: a traveling companion, with him, you can conquer the impossible, even if you must lose it later. Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession; friendship is never anything but sharing." — Elie Wiesel. "Friendship is not about who you have known the longest. It's about who walked into your life, said, "I'm here for you, and proved it." —Anonymous. "That's when I realized what a true friend was. Someone who would always love you, the imperfect you, the confused you, the wrong you, because that's what people are supposed to do." —Anonymous. William Shakespeare's view on friendship is my favorite. I love the way he puts it: "A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still gently allows you to grow."

If you read the above sayings, you'd observe they had one thing in common—that a friend is always after your growth. Their pleasure is in seeing you on the brighter side of life, and the reason they do what they do is nothing. They are not on a secret mission or have an agenda planned out. They do not take advantage of your weaknesses, nor do they crave your pitfalls. They're not the cliché friends with benefits. All they desire is to see you shine like the sun and stars, to watch your progress against all odds. Yes, these kinds of people exist, and you know what's better?

You can be one! I need you to note this sequence; A friend: Knows you, Understands you, Accepts you, Loves you, Allows you to grow, Without an ulterior motive. We can merge it this way: Friendship is sharing one's self without an ulterior motive. So, before you call he/she a friend, ask yourself these four (4) test questions:

1. Do they know you?

2. Do they love you despite your flaws?

3. Do they desire your growth?

4. Are they 'sharing' for nothing?

If you answered YES to the above questions, then we can move ahead. Why Friendship? Myles Munroe rightly said, "When the purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable." "What's the big deal in all of these? Why friendship? Why should I stick close to friends and not just sweep them away from my life like they never existed? What are the blessings that come with friendship? Stephen, are you insinuating I share myself for nothing?" Below are some reasons friendship matters.

1. It gives a sense of fulfillment.

Edward Young said, "Friendship's the wine of life." Let's assume you see a guy walk past your street with a bright smile etched on his face. He isn't on a call or listening to music, so you wonder what's making him smile. Two things could come to mind; either the guy is psychotic, or he is reliving a memory. Well, that guy is me. I've caught myself smiling while reminiscing moments with a friend. I wish I had the right words to explain what it means to have someone that represents a friend. It is a healing balm to your body, peace and joy to your soul. It is something that money cannot buy. Inside everyone is craving because we are wired for friendship. Children seek it from their parents. Couples look to one another for it; students seek it in teachers and vice versa. People join all sorts of occultic groups for the singular purpose of finding fulfillment. My dad died at an early age, and not long after, I lost my mum too. Thanks to my friends, I realized I was not alone. I had friends who surrounded me and were always there for me.

Hulbert Humphrey said, "The greatest gift in life is the gift of friendship, and I have received it; the greatest healing therapy is friendship." Knowing that someone loves you unconditionally and is willing to go the extra mile for you is refreshing. That someone understands you, and there'd always be that listening ear when you need someone to talk to, is comforting beyond measure.

2. Help is always available.

"In everyone's life, at some time our inner fire goes out. . ." —Albert Schweitzer It's true that our friends are not superhumans and that we don't make friends because of the challenges we face; however, it's also worthy of note that genuine friendships translate to help. They go hand in hand. You don't go into friendships with a benefit-seeking mindset, but like cause and effect, if you have true friends, then there is help available for you. I might be able to estimate how many times I have sought family for help but not friends. I do not go to their grumbling, "Give me, give me, give me," like a toddler but to share my challenges and, in the process, experience relief. So many have trodden the path of suicide because they did not have anyone they could have soul-searching conversations with. I'm not sure I'd ever be able to forget the day I got so frustrated that as I walked home, thoughts of suicide danced in my head. A friend met me on the way and, after explaining my ordeals to her, said she was willing to help out by any means possible. Those words uplifted my spirit, and I went home a happy person, thoughts of suicide vanishing into thin smoke.

I've lost count of the number of times friends sent me money during the COVID'19 lockdown. Make no mistake; I'm not talking about borrowing but free giving. We do not seek gifts, but it comes with the package called friendship. Who is the first person that crosses your mind in the heat of the moment? Before my mother embraced the cold hands of death, she began acting a little strange. I was scared and confused. Eventually, I put a call through to a friend. I needed someone to hold my hands when my heart was beating so fast. I needed someone to comfort me if the inevitable happened. I needed someone who could pray with me. I found all these in a friend. Even after Mama marched on to glory, and like Job, I was mourning my loss, my friends were there to comfort and offer words of encouragement to me.

Life can sometimes be tiring, and you need someone to play with. Did I say play? Yes. Sometimes, regardless of the problems you're facing at the moment, you need a friend you can play with, to trigger the sensation of laughter and joy. Doing this exercise would relieve you from a lot of stress and possibly pave the way for fresh ideas. Now, I believe you know that friendship also means help is always present. Help here is not necessarily of monetary value. They could come as ideas, connections, motivations, and so on. The list is endless.

3. It is dangerous to be alone.

"Things are never quite scary when you've got a best friend." —Bill Watterson On one of those days while I was in secondary school, I remember rushing to school because I was quite late. I couldn't take the usual route because it was flooded. I followed an alternative route but wasn't prepared for what lay ahead. The route was also flooded, and because I couldn't miss school, I rolled my trousers and waded through the muddy water. I noticed that as I went further, the water got deeper. Horror filled me, and I was scared of drowning. It didn't help matters that no one was in sight; the place was as silent as a graveyard. Hope soared in me when I sighted someone coming behind me. Someone was walking my path, and I was not alone; that is what friendship does to us. Just as there are two sides to a coin, there were two possibilities with my short story.

1. What if I had met that person at the beginning of the journey?

2. What if I hadn't met anyone at all?

If I had met that person earlier on, it would have been a joy from the start. And if I didn't meet anybody at all, I might have pulled through, but it would have been a struggle. So, you see, two people can have the same challenge, but one will tag his/her experience as joy, while the other, a struggle. Why? Because one fought through alone while the other had company. We might not always be lucky to fight life battles alone and win. Some have, in the process, chosen suicide as the escape route to silencing those battles. The silent tears that soak the pillow, the depression that thrives in privacy, the high cost of living experienced by Nigerians and other nations, the gloominess hovering in the faces of many, and so many other things that cannot be exhausted in this book are enough reason to sponsor a sad life, but there is an advantage. The gift of friendships!

Friends may not have to do much. Oftentimes, their presence and wholehearted, unfeigned love are enough. In Gen 2:18, God said, "It is not good for a man to be alone. . ." It's sad that this scripture has been narrowed to just romantic relationships. It cuts across every form of relationship, including friendship. It is dangerous to be alone. Let's explore some more. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, the King said, "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. but pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." The decision to make your journey a joy or a struggle is up to you.

4. It prepares you.

Do you have the bear and lion experience for the Goliath in your future? The little preparations before meeting bigger opportunities count. Or, like many, you are waiting for life to unlock certain opportunities for you before seeing the need to be prepared. The gift of a friend is enough preparation. "Stephen, how?" Follow closely as I share another story. You promised yourself you would give him a certain amount of money once you get your salary. The first time, you struggled to do so because the money wasn't enough to cater to your needs and talk more to another person. You did it anyway and then again and again. You even exceeded your expectations as you gave more than promised. Now, you are married with lovely children. Giving your wife and children money comes with ease for you. You pay the bills without grumbling and make sure they never lack anything. What happened?

Those days of selfless acts in friendship built something in you. This is what a lot of people don't realize. You don't kill Goliath in one day. Like David, you've been preparing for the days of battles. The days you'd have to give even when it's the last kobo you have. Any little argument, you'd threaten to end the friendship. That's wrong. Don't let this be you. It is time to learn to resolve conflict, to forgive. Because you will need it in days to come. We are selfish beings naturally. Committing to friendships will stretch you. It will open you up to love someone else aside from yourself. It will teach you to be sacrificial, to forgive, to appreciate, and to go the extra mile because it's worth it.

5. Agent of positive change.

"Show me your friend, and I will tell you who you are." While writing the first draft of this book, I wrote Agent of Change because having a friend will change you either positively or negatively, depending on the kind of friends you keep. What we want to attract are positive changes which we can get only from the right friends. Do you have anyone you can be open and bare to? Do you have that person you can tell any and everything without the fear of being judged? Do you have someone who would correct you in love, not flog you with words? Someone you are not ashamed to tell, "I'm sorry I messed up," and with love, he/she would wipe your tears and hold your hands. Their words would sometimes do. At other times, it's their silence and wholehearted love you need.

"Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life." —Amy Poehler As we draw the curtain here, permit me to bring to your table the words of Maya Angelou. "Friendship takes work. Finding friends, nurturing friendships, and scheduling facetime all takes a tremendous amount of work. But it's worth it. If you put in the effort, you will see the rewards of positive friends who will make your life extraordinary." "Why didn't I see all of this before?" Well, tighten your belt. The next chapter will expose you to another reality you didn't know or knew but didn't pay attention to. Let's forge ahead. 

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