Am I the Only One?
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.
There is something truly liberating when you discover that you are not alone–when you know that others have thought the same negative thoughts, gone through the same maddening experiences, acted in a similar irrational way, shared the same insecure feelings. We so often live in a world of isolation where we do not realize that we are meant to be connected. We have so much more in common. But we don’t talk about it due to a sense of fear, judgment, and embarrassment.
Michael was leading a group of people in their late 30’s and early 40’s. There was one man in the group who was probably fifteen or twenty years older than everyone else. During one of the discussions the older man said something very courageous: “I think that if people really knew the thoughts that went through my mind, they would be shocked and probably wouldn’t like me.” Michael was impressed with that man’s openness and vulnerability, with the risk he took to share something so personal.
The fact is—all of us—have thoughts running through our minds, which we think, if others knew them, would cause us to be disliked, ostracized, and harshly judged. That man was speaking for all of us. We see this all the time. Someone in a group or between two individuals takes a risk and shares something very personal and potentially damaging to their reputation. But so often we see that if one person shares, another will open up too, confessing to the very same feelings, thoughts, experiences, and actions. And so often when this happens, walls come down and friendships are born.
We’ve seen this happen in our own relationship. A pivotal moment that took our friendship to an exponentially deeper level happened two years ago, two nights before Christmas. One of us broke the ice by sharing about past relationships in which we felt hurt, betrayed, or letdown, embarrassing moments we have gone through, and painful experiences we have had. We shared about dreams not yet realized– about both of us getting married very young and having children early on. And we shared some of our deepest fears. Being able to admit that even as fathers of three and four and even Michael now a new grandfather, we still don’t feel like grownups. Begging the question: how did we get to this place in life with all of these responsibilities where people depend on us? We shared about jobs where people confide in us and have confidence in us to guide them to healthy places, yet we ourselves don’t feel as though we are really adults. We shared about careers which seemed unfulfilling and about working with people who were beyond difficult and who seemed to want to suck the joy out of us. Once one of us was willing to take the risk of vulnerability by sharing things so personal, it enabled the other to do the same. A true friendship continues to be born as we discover even more about ourselves and each other – in the ‘What? You Too!’ moments that draw us closer together .