-An extract from Venerable Pomnyun’s book, Life Lessons–
P: Everything in this world changes. Therefore, dwelling on the past and clinging to the way things used to be will cause pain and anguish.
It’s only natural that even the close friend from childhood have a hard time staying in touch with one another as time passes because they become busy with their own lives. As a result, when they get together, they don’t feel as close as they used to in the past.
They will always be friends, but they won’t be as close as they were when they were young. This is a natural occurrence among friends as they get older.
Q: “I recently realized that I don’t have a single friend with whom I can relax and have a drink when I want to. I feel awkward around one friend for no particular reason, I get a headache when I am with another friend because he is so stubborn, and I get tired and irritated by yet another friend of mine because he never compromises with anybody.
P: It feels as though my circle of friends is dwindling and I only have a few genuine friends left.
In the past, when I visited my hometown, about five friends would get together with me. Nowadays, when I go home, only one or two friends make an effort to see me. Even at that, I don’t think they’re excited to see me.
This was a complaint from a young man in his early thirties. His story is not an uncommon one since many people feel sad about becoming estranged from their friends as they get older. They express their hurt feelings in words such as “We don’t hang out anymore.” and “I feel my friends have become selfish.”
During our adolescent years, friendship plays such an important role in our lives. We spend a lot of time with our friends and do everything with them. We talk openly about things we don’t dare tell our parents. Thus, in a way, we tend to depend more on our friends than our parents.
During our early childhood years, we depend on our parents for everything. Then, during our primary school years, friends take up a large portion of our social life. When we reach our adolescence years, we begin to take interest in the opposite gender and start dating. Then, when we enter the workforce, we form relationships with our colleagues. These changes occur naturally as we go through the different phases of our lives.
If you feel sad about becoming distant from your childhood friends, it is an indication that you are still dwelling on the fond memories of the past.
Once you are married, you meet your friends less often. It becomes difficult to buy your friends a drink because you need to get your spouse’s consent. If you are a woman, your responsibility of taking care of your husband and children take precedence over your old friends, which will make going out with your friends in the evening very challenging. When you have a family, you cannot go out to see people as freely as you did when you were single.
Similar changes take place in our relationship with our siblings. When we were young, we could have never imagined living apart from our siblings since we shared meals and clothes with one another every day. But once we get married and create our own families, we go our separate ways. So, when we have spouses and children, helping out our siblings or parents financially becomes difficult. If you give financial support to your siblings, your spouse may argue “How could you do that? We barely have enough to stay afloat ourselves!” Then, there is nothing you can say to defend yourself.
We must learn to accept the changes that occur in the different phases of our lives as something natural. The reason you feel unhappy and cannot accept the changes is that you remember your past as the “good old days.” and don’t want to let go. It’s not your friends who are indifferent and disloyal. In fact, you are the one who is being immature. Whether you admit it or not, you are also feeling more distant from your friends. The fact that some of your friends make you feel uncomfortable and some others make you feel tired means that your feelings toward your friends are not what they used to be. Because you are being too critical of your friends’ behaviors and blaming them for the reason for the change in the relationship, your attitude is causing an increasingly bigger rift between you and your friends.
Q: “Every year I am becoming more sensitive and short-tempered, so I suffer from chronic gastritis. I’m taking prescription medication for the condition, how can I become a more relaxed and even-tempered person?”
P: When you want to control others and cater to your preference all the time, you can’t help but feel drained and increase your chances of ending up with a physical illness.
Most importantly, you need to let go of the notion that you have to be with your friends all the time. Only then will you be free. You should be happy when you are with friends because you can enjoy their company, and also be happy when you are by yourself because you can enjoy your own company. That way, it won’t matter to you whether you are alone or with people, and you will also feel good whenever you see your friends.
There is an old saying, “Don’t stop those who come your way, but also don’t stop those who leave.” This doesn’t mean you should neglect your current relationships. Rather, it means you should accept your relationships just the way they are. There is no way to stop your relationship with others from changing, so it is best not to cling to them. Only when you don’t get attached to your relationships, can you truly enjoy them and the opportunities to form new relationships will open up to you.
You feel stressed when you are not able to understand others, but you feel good when you are able to understand them. Likewise, liking someone fills the heart with joy but hating someone causes pain and suffering. Unfortunately, however, since we are more used having a negative mindset, we are more familiar with insisting on our ways and resenting and hating others rather than understanding them. When you feel such negative emotions, consciously observing your mind, for instance, “I felt hatred because I didn’t like what he said.” and “I feel resentment because my friend doesn’t spend enough time with me,” helps dissipate those emotions. As you continue to observe your mind, your obsession with friendship and hatred toward your friends will gradually diminish over time.