“People Who Need People” – A View on Friendship

“People…people who need people…” Barbara Streisand sang in her sixties’ movie Funny Girl. “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world!”

Streisand’s singing was over-the-top; music speaks to the soul, and there is so much truth in the song.

We need to recognize that we need people. At the same time, though, I have noticed that the need can cloud our vision.

We all know the classic stories where someone stays with an abusive boyfriend (or girlfriend) because she (or he) is “so in love” and “needs” the person. Even in friendship, our need for people can affect our ability to see clearly. Maybe this person we see as a friend is a wonderful person, but maybe she is not the best person for us to have as a close friend.

Or we might find out, as I did recently, that the friend simply wanted to help you in some way, but not to be mutual friends, at least not as close friends as I had thought.

I used to think that if I liked someone a lot, all I had to do was let them know – in whatever way, maybe in various ways – and then that person, that potential close friend, would feel the same way. I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way. Sure, maybe you already knew that. Maybe you’re shaking your head at the naivete of that statement. But often, when we think things of that nature, we don’t really think them through; they are subconscious thoughts. And we act on them without thinking.

Maybe we’ve learned to ignore the warning bells that go off in our head. Maybe as we first got to know each other, we had angry arguments. ‘But that’s okay’, we think. ‘We got past that, and it’s normal.’ But did we really communicate? Do we really communicate? If we had a big misunderstanding in the future, would we be able to talk it out? Or is one person constantly either apologizing or tip-toeing, as I did with one friend many years ago? Or are we constantly having doubts about the friendship?

Maybe it isn’t us. Maybe it isn’t even “them.” Maybe it is a “friendship” that isn’t meant to be.

As a lover of beautiful cars, I can admire scores of cars and never want them. As someone who now lives in a rented apartment, I enjoy the beautiful homes – or the cozy homes – of my friends, without wanting a home like theirs for myself. Maybe the same could apply to enjoying someone’s company, admiring someone’s character and personality. Because I like someone doesn’t mean I have to become good friends with that person, share confidences, and spend a lot of time. Maybe we can just enjoy our neighborly hello, or our working together, or however we see the person, and leave it at that.

Like the old balance scales, where you put something on one side and an equal weight on the other, there is a balance to be sought in our thinking. Some people, it seems, avoid friendship – at least close friendship – like the plague. “All that matters is family,” they say, or: “God and family.” Maybe they are overwhelmed with their family duties. Maybe they have a spouse who wants to cling or possess. Maybe they’ve been hurt in the past. But wouldn’t they be happier with a broader view of life? Wouldn’t life be a little bit easier with a broader base of support?

Perhaps the best thing we can do is to be our own best friend first. When someone whom I respect told me to nurture myself, I was puzzled. She said to think in terms of what you “want” to do, rather than what you “should” do. Think about it. Which feels better: ‘I should make dinner’ or ‘I want to make dinner for my family that I love?’ ‘I should exercise so I will be healthy’ or ‘I want to walk and feel good and feel good about my health?’

I thought about it more. What is my self-talk? What is yours? Would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself?

We need God first and foremost, but people do need people. That’s how He made us. And he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, obviously, He wants us to love ourselves. Perhaps we need to be our own best friend first . . .  and then ask for his guidance . . . and keep our hearts open . . . to connect with those people with whom we can have mutually healthy friendships, because “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Margaret Mary Myers is a Catholic wife and mother of six adult children. She has written articles for compilation books and for various homeschooling magazines. She homeschooled her six children for 26 years. She also writes children's books. Visit her blog at http://margmary.blogspot.com.

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