“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow grow, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the application.” –George Washington
I understand the sentiment of the wise Washington’s words. Protect your heart. It’s a fragile thing and wounds heal slowly, leaving deep scars. Don’t trust it to just anyone. It gives you life, it sustains you, so be careful who’s given access to it.
I’ve learned this lesson again and again, but never really apply it. I’ve let too many people too close to the core of me, to my most vulnerable places. I’ve let them just under the surface, kept them at a distance, but they still make a swipe at the important stuff. I don’t think that they have ever done so intentionally. Well, perhaps one, but that’s the exception that proves the rule– I let them hurt me, they don’t seek to do so. Which is ironic, because I’m slow to truly open up and share and be exposed. I don’t give them ammunition because I know that they don’t need it– it takes very little to do much damage.
Despite this distance I maintain and all that I keep to myself, emotionally I get close fast. It takes no time at all for me to be invested and committed to a relationship. I may never be open about my feelings, but they instantly take hold. It’s the only part of my life that I dive into head first. This is where I get hurt. I’m sacrificing and giving long before it’s earned and, while I’m at least somewhat aware that I should be holding back, I cannot stop this. I guess I have something to learn from our first president.
However, I also take him to task on his advice. I know that my feelings have been wounded and my confidence shattered, but I don’t think that I regret my swift loyalty. In fact, I wish that I was not so reluctant to open up. When it all boils down, life is short. I have spent enough of my years lonesome, feeling isolated, and I regret that. While I may get frustrated or hurt, I don’t regret giving to my friends. I don’t regret caring. I don’t think that it’s a mistake to add a little love to someone’s life.
I do think that this leaves me open to pain and disappointment. Every time a friend misses my birthday after I make sure to call them, it stings. When I give rides to the airport but am left stranded, it hurts. But I do not think that I could live with myself, I do not think I would be myself, if I balked because I feared that my friendship would not be reciprocated. Or, perhaps, that reciprocating would take a form that I did not expect, because people are not perfect.
As I hang out more with people I work with, people I might not choose to spend time with if we weren’t coworkers, I think about this caution to protect my heart. Do I too quickly call them friends when, in fact, we’re only acquaintances, slightly more familiar with each other than with others? Do I expect too much from them because I know how much I’m already willing to give of myself to them? I don’t know. I do know that, to quote Grey’s Anatomy , “People are better than no people.” I appreciate the caution to beware who I allow into my life and how much access I allow them, but I would rather count my friends faster than I should. I’d rather regret being too open to caring, loving too fast, giving too much, than regret being closed off, alone and unwilling to be a friend.