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Friendship: A Sweet Mystery Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

Lying just on the borders of every family and institutional system there is a network of friends connected to it by threads of love and loyalty not often recognized as a vital resource. The gift of friendship brings an invaluable resource into the environment of all kinds of institutions. Unlike ties with our kin, our connections to friends are delicate, fragile and constitute an art and craft of affection. The beauty of true friendship is that of an elective bond. There are no formalized rituals. True friends encounter the world as they do, as pure experience, as pure possibility.

As we move on through our lives, the friends we have made and kept over time take an increasingly vital role as curators of our emotional histories and challenges. In their presence, we feel truly heard, and we become funnier and smarter because of their listening, support and healthy advice. True friends (and they come in small numbers) address psychological envelopes by hand, and at their presence we never feel part of a mass mailing of intimate information. Core friends always sign the Christmas cards or the Thank You notes, and are quick to express gratefulness. Friends are there for us in the good and bad times.

Best friendship is distilled out of a smattering of random learning events and a multitude of choices, some of them conscious and others not conscious, to keep the relationship going. The wonderful mystery of a true friendship is that partners and buddies are the only ones who know very much about the different stages of their respective lines. They know each other in ways other don’t know.

In his classic 1964 book, Psychotherapy: The Purchase of Friendship, William Schofield made the point that the cult of professional expert has led to an unintended constriction of friendship, because it subtly encourage people to believe that only trained technicians can supply the particular environment of support, trust and validation that permitted emotional healing and development on the contrary, he argued, that if the fundamental transformative power of assistance lay in the relationship between two people, on marked by acceptance, positive regard and willingness to listen and help, then it stood to reason that close friendship might much of the healing power that other professions had claim for their selves. Thus, an important responsibility for many helping professionals is to encourage clients to seek and to find the satisfaction of his/her emotional needs in the natural affection supplies of his/her social world.

Friendship offers us love, solidarity and understanding without pressure, and this offering is what is most deeply and enduringly healing about connections with our friends. It is through them that we discover, with gratitude and great relief, that we are irrefutably human beings, creatures of God, and that we belong.


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