What makes a friendship grow?

Everybody is just so prideful nowadays. Well, I say ‘nowadays’ as if I am eighty years old or something. The 1960s would be my time of age-based peaking, if it were up to me. But, back to nowadays: everyone claims to have friends. Few people are willing to acknowledge the true value of friendship – a precious tree that requires careful cultivation if it is to flourish and be fruitful.

True friendship does not come easy: it requires effort, on all sides and fronts. Time, empathy, humour, sacrifice, commitment, effort. These things make one’s friendship garden grow.

Nowadays, and nostalgic self-proclaimed ‘old souls’ tend to latch onto this word and what it may entail like leeches to blood, people seem to be reluctant to actually make an effort. ‘Trust issues’, extremely busy schedules, and good old clingy friend Ego are usually to blame.

Often, it’s a vicious cycle: you want your friend to pick up the phone and call you first – implicitly, you are too proud to make the first move. But she does not call, so you become ‘protectively’ apathetic; distance yourself a little. But what if she is also waiting for you to make the first call? What if this cycle is doomed to repeat itself for years and years, until you have amassed enough contactless hours for a lifetime-remainder of regret?

Sometimes it gets tiring being the first one to do something about it all. Friendships can come to feel rather asymmetrical. Your effort may seemingly be matched with indifference, or with taking your emotional grafting for granted. And then Ego comes to visit once again – that opportunistic fox. It tells you, why do you even bother? You’re embarrassing yourself, dear. They don’t care about you. Protect yourself; let your heart grow cold towards them.

I think everyone will, undoubtedly, let you down in one way or another. And you will let others down too, often inadvertently. But the fact of the matter is, friendship is based on autonomous choices. We become friends not with fantastical images of ‘perfect potential friends’. Nay, we become friends with people. People will always let you down.

But apathy and feigned indifference and a resultant lack of effort on your part is not the way to go. If everyone resorted to this easy (foolish) solution, all friendships would either be very shallow, or would cease to be real friendships at all.

We get to decide who we accept as friends; who gets to be in our lives in this right. We choose whom we like, and whom we are willing to forgive, over and over again, when they (inadvertently, for actions are but by intention [Hadith]) hurt us. We should aim to be willing to put our pride-based barriers down, over and over again, for this select few.

Who wins – all the time – in this game? The ones who pridefully refuse to try? They gain nothing from this endeavour, except the loss of friends, as well as the loss of the softness of their hearts. It is the ones who try, try, and then try again who always win: they either succeed in nourishing dormant friendships, or they fail in this activity; at least they have the satisfaction of knowing that they tried. This friendship has died not because of them, but because of an indifferent other.

For my friends, Insha-Allah, I will try and try. I hope they know me as the one who makes the effort. But, over time, if these efforts are not reciprocated, they will never get to know me again.

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