I have a best friend, and during most summers, we do everything together. Whether it’s playing pickleball in the park or lounging around watching cartoons, we are always close. However, there’s one thing we’ve learned that will always cause a bit of tension between us, and that is the subject of religion.
Since sophomore year of high school, faith has played big roles in our lives. For him, it is a guiding force that has helped shape who he is and strives to be, while for me, faith is more a study of interest. While I believe our intentions are genuine, some of these conversations have been so intense that they have threatened to end the friendship. Looking back, I can remember scenes of us grinding our teeth on park benches and frustratingly throwing rocks into rivers while on hikes. However, when I look back on our friendship as a whole, all I can recall are the good times we’ve had together and excitement for the ones to come.
This is the first lesson in humility that I’ve learned when it comes to friendship: never reduce a relationship down to its toughest moments. These moments might be the building blocks for an even stronger and healthier connection later on.
So what is humility? The first thing that comes to mind is the saying, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” While this is a good start, I would argue that it’s not so much thinking of yourself less frequently in a situation that might demand it, but rather more relationally with the people in the situation. As Eliana emphasized in her May 14th TWZ blog post, “How I Learned the Difference Between Confidence and Arrogance”, sometimes the only response needed when given a compliment is a brief “thank you.” The acceptance of praise is often more meaningful than the downplaying of praise because you acknowledge the words of others without devaluing them, allowing true self-recognition while also making everyone in the situation feel good!
As I moved through my first couple years of college and returned home during the summers to see my best friend, I started to view our conversations more relationally rather than one side pitted against the other. When he said something I just couldn’t get on board with, I took a moment to acknowledge his words and realize his convictions are an expression of an intricate life rather than an oversimplified version of a religious or political front. Instead of waiting for my turn to speak with pre-arranged responses in my head, I set an intention to actively listen and began to learn the reasons why he believed the things he did. Oftentimes, they aligned with my reasoning too.
Finally, instead of giving in to an impulsive response of “Nope, you’re wrong” or interrupting, I started to formulate my responses with “I statements” with summaries of what he just said without misconstruing his words. “I hear that you are saying ________. While I believe ________, tell me more on what led you to believe ________.” Far from being redundant, this mental template has opened up many conversations towards curiosity rather than hostility, ultimately helping me and my friend heal from moments in the past while cultivating greater understanding between us for the future.
Humility can help heal friendships, and my best friend and I are proof of that.