We have a new President. There has been much in the news in the past few months about our election, the candidates, and the different opinions about what’s best for our country. Then in November, the electorate voted, and on January 20th Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. Some people are very happy about that, and others are not. We will likely hear and read about these different opinions for years to come. That is not the focus of this post. This is about a letter the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara Bush, wrote to the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, as they were preparing to leave the White House that would soon be occupied by the new first family.
The message that resonated the most with me from the letter the Bush twins wrote to Sasha and Malia Obama is the title of this post: Surround Yourself with Loyal Friends. This is a timeless message, a message worth as much to all of us as it is to those who have occupied or will occupy the White House. I have thought about this message on different levels since I heard it.
First there is the issue of who is a friend, really? Without getting out the dictionary, we should all be able to provide a common definition of a friend. While there are many characteristics of a friend, one of my requirements when I think of a friend is that it is someone who has our best at heart. It is someone we make time for. It is someone with whom we share common interests and values.
Adults have different types of relationships, and these can sometimes be confused as friendships. While on one level social acquaintances can become friends, there is a difference in these “friendships” and true friendships. The difference is somewhat like the Facebook friends. While I have some true friends who are also Facebook friends, many of my Facebook friends are more social friends and business friends than personal friends. While I value these Facebook friends, they are not the ones I trust to be vulnerable with, nor who I will call in the middle of the night if my heart is hurting. You understand the difference. While all friends are valuable, they serve different needs.
Another distinction. If the social relationship, “friendship,” is a result of business connections, these may not be friendships in the truest sense of the word. This does not mean that times spent with these people aren’t fun, for they certainly can be. It is, however, important to keep the distinctions clear. If the only times we talk to these friends is when we are together for a business function or an extension of a business function, while these may be social friends, they may not qualify for friendship of a deeper level. If we expect more from these relationships, we may be disappointed. These may not pass the “having our best at heart” criteria.
The issue of loyalty is a big issue in friendship. I have known of several friendships, some deep and long standing, that have been split apart by the violation of the loyalty principle. In each case, there has been the issue of jealousy and/or competition, which is a direct violation of loyalty. Can we be loyal to one of whom we are jealous or feel competitive? My experience is, no. I have seen too many relationships severed due to this issue.
Then there is the issue of openness and honesty. It is hard to imagine having a true friend with whom one can’t be open and honest, regardless of the circumstance. This often involves conflict. While it is true that different personalities deal with conflict differently, when there is a foundation of trust in the relationship, conflict can be managed, not avoided. If the relationship does not involve openness and honesty within a framework of trust and loyalty, it is best to not assume that one can be totally vulnerable or open with the other person.
“Surround Yourselves with Loyal Friends” is a message worth remembering, and not just for Sasha and Malia.