Our president is one of my friends and I love her a whole lot. A month or so ago she spoke to us about loneliness. She asked us to raise our hand if we had felt alone at any time during the previous week. Almost every sister raised a hand. I was one of them.
Many of my close friends have moved away or are so busy that we have a hard time spending time with each other. Things have gotten in the way of my desire to reach out to girls I want to know better. I haven't been very good at doing my visiting teaching and I didn't have visiting teachers for a long time.
Two months ago our family had to deal with something big, something I'm not sure I'll ever talk about on this blog. I felt totally and completely alone. Sure, I talked to my bishop, my parents, my in-laws, and my best friend but I was physically and emotionally isolated. My bishop told the relief society presidents and made sure our home teachers and my visiting teachers were discovered. Despite the outpouring of phone calls and text messages, the offerings of meals and service, I still felt alone. I probably should have asked a friend to come over but I didn't want to talk about it and I would have probably cried the whole time and I didn't want to be a burden. So I didn't call anyone. I wasn't even sure I was going to tell anyone about it. And I haven't really.
I got new visiting teachers recently, two sisters I sort of knew already, and at the end of their first visit I told them all about what had happened. I wanted them to know what was happening so that I could reach out if I needed to.
But that wasn't enough. I made a choice to be a better friend. If I want good friends, I need to be one. I started texting some girls just to say hello. I started visiting some girls just to chat. I invited them over for game nights. Already I feel more connected to them and it is helping me through this trial.
About a year ago a girl got married and decided I wasn't needed as the friend I had been to her since her husband now fulfilled all her needs. That was a very painful thing for me to process. As I've been trying to make new friends and I've been pondering the role of friendship in my life and in the gospel, I have decided that friendship is needed outside of the home, too. Now, I'm glad she and her husband are such good friends because that is what keeps marriages strong. But the gospel teaches us that we are to be friends with more people than just our spouses and family.
In April 1999, Marlin K. Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy, gave a conference talk titled "Friendship: A Gospel Principle". He talks about the benefits of friendship in marriage and in families. Then he goes on to talk about friendship outside the home:
"There is a particular challenge we face as Latter-day Saints in establishing and maintaining friendships. Because our commitment to marriage, family, and the Church is so strong, we often feel challenged by constraints of time and energy in reaching out in friendship to others beyond that core group. I experienced this dilemma personally in recent days as I tried to steal a few moments at home to prepare this talk. Twice, friends from my past, whom I love dearly but see only occasionally, dropped in to visit. During what ought to have been choice times of reunion and reminiscence, I ironically found myself growing inwardly impatient for the visits to end so that I could get back to writing my talk about friendship!
I have since felt ashamed. How selfish we can be. How unwilling to be inconvenienced, to give, to bless and be blessed. What kind of parents or neighbors or servants of the Lord Jesus Christ can we be without being a friend? In this information age, is not friendship still the best technology for sharing the truths and way of life we cherish? Is not our reluctance voluntarily to reach out to others in friendship a significant obstacle to helping God accomplish His eternal purposes?....
Our Savior, shortly before His Crucifixion, said to His disciples: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends.' Having been so richly blessed by Christ’s friendship, I pray that we will now be to others what He is to us: a true friend. At no time will we be more Christlike than when we are a friend. I testify of the inestimable value of friends in my own life and express my gratitude to all of them this morning. I know that when we offer ourselves in friendship, we make a most significant contribution to God’s work and to the happiness and progress of His children."
Here is the video of his complete talk: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/04/friendship-a-gospel-principle?lang=eng
I feel a connection to these sisters and they lift my spirits and my heart as we develop our friendship. I am grateful that I am learning the pains of loneliness so I can truly appreciate good and appreciated friendship.