To have true friends and be loved by them, we must in turn feel love and sympathy for others. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This reminds me of the phrase “to have a friend you have to be a friend.” A true friend will have some flavor of love (a word that covers a very broad range of feelings) as well as sympathy. So to have a true friend, you would have to be a true friend, and that requires some flavor of love as well as some amount of sympathy.
These two feelings are the foundation of true friendship. You can have a partnership or some other ‘business’ arrangement without these, but it won’t be a friendship until you care about the other person, through some form of love and sympathy. Does that distinction make sense?
Why is love and sympathy important?
Love is defined at thefreedictionary.com as “A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.”
Love comes in many flavors, from brotherly love to romantic love, with many steps in-between. The wide range of what the word love means is demonstrated in the definition, of which I have quoted one out of over a dozen.
Sympathy is defined at thefreedictionary.com as “A relationship or an affinity between people or things in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other.”
Sympathy, like love, covers a wide range of feelings, and has many steps along the way. From feeling a bit of pity for an injured animal to crying all afternoon with a friend who just got a terminal diagnosis, sympathy shows a connection between you and another.
Love and sympathy both show a connection between people, without which friendship cannot exist. Without these connections, the other person is merely an acquaintance.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Sympathy is probably as good a place to start as any. Do you have sympathy for yourself? If you mess something up, do you fly into a rage and yell at yourself, either out loud or in your head? What do you see when you look back at something you accomplished, the good or the bad, the successes or the mistakes?
If your focus is more on the negative than the positive, you need to show yourself more sympathy. Nobody out there is perfect, you’re not, I’m not, our politicians are not, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, notice that things didn’t go exactly right, but use it as a point to learn from, not as a platform to use to beat yourself up.
Love for self is the first love. Do you love yourself, feel a sense of oneness with yourself? If you have issues with this, there are a number of sources which can help. There are web sites with useful insight out there, include kalimunro.com (which has other useful links, insight and help) and wikipedia.org (which is a bit dry, as you might expect). Of course, there are also plenty of books in the library and online, as well as professional assistance, should it be necessary.
Now, with at least a little sympathy for yourself, and a little bit of self-love, we can turn to friends. As sympathy and love have wide ranges of values, so too does friendship. There are friends you meet for a snack and some gossip, and the friends who argue with you and the friends who bail you out of jail (or are sitting next to you saying “that was a good time!”).
How much sympathy do you feel for others? Do you feel anything when you pass someone on the street who is down on their luck? While I don’t often help them directly, I do feel sympathy for them. If you feel absolutely nothing, I would ask that you try to soften the callous that keeps you from feeling.
How much sympathy do you feel for your friends? Realizing that there are varieties of friends, you should still feel something when one of them is relating a problem they are having. The feeling should be in proportion to the level of friendship you feel. If it isn’t, I would ask that you consider why it is not? Is it a topic you aren’t comfortable discussing? Is it something you felt they brought on themselves? Sympathy is non-judgmental, in my opinion. What do you think?
How do you feel about your level of love and sympathy towards others? These are very personal issues, and you will have to investigate and modify them in a manner that is appropriate for you. I hope I have given you some food for thought on the topics.
Go out and be the friend you would like to have, you deserve it!