The Value of a Good Friend

This month we have heard how Buddy Franklin has been coping (or not coping) with depression and how the Sydney Swans has come out to support him. Personally, I think Buddy Franklin is a brave and courageous individual for having taken this step because it is not always easy to ask people for help when things are getting you down.

Many people who have been down this path have shared with me about how alone they felt and how lonely they are. People need people and the people who have people (meaning good support from those around them) are the luckiest people in the world.

With the advent of social media news is flashed round the globe faster than the speed of light and very often people don’t have the time to really sit and listen with someone, they don’t take the time to be still and t really shower themselves with the luxury of really getting to know and understand the other person. All too often the focus is on the sensationalism of the moment.

Personally, I am not privy to the depth of Buddy Franklin’s despair or what his needs are, however, I do understand how much it helps to have someone listen to how you’re feeling and to give you a little time. Very often the sad person is not looking to have the listener “kiss it and make it all better” but to just listen, to really listen and when this happens the talker feels better because someone has taken the time to listen, to make that time all about the talker and not about the listener. To just listen and really hear what the talker has to say and to hear what is not being said can be really powerful.

For many people, it’s not always easy to listen without judgment with the subsequent apportionment of evaluation about the talker. How often have you heard someone say – you want to watch out for so and so because once they bail you up …?

It’s not always convenient to just stop and chat and when you find yourself in this situation all you really need to do is to explain your current situation briefly and then make a time when you have more time to really give to that person. Sometimes you might like to explain this by saying something like … and this will give us the opportunity to have a really good talk. This way the talker will feel heard and you, the listener, will have the chance to be more relaxed and give the talker the time she needs to be heard.

Once many people came from larger families or they lived in a village where there were people who had time to stop and chat however the days of the extended family have gone for many westerners and we need to find a substitute for that family time, that old uncle or gran who often had more time to just listen.

Sometimes just talking about a problem or something that is an issue for you is all that’s needed. When someone has been able to slow down and talk, very often a way forward will come to that person – it’s as though by actually verbalising the concern, it has somehow makes everything clearer.

Many people tend to really stew over an issue in their head which can lead to lack of sleep, poor eating habits and generally dysfunctioning bodies and minds. This can mean they become irritable and unsocial or it may mean they resort to some external substance to “make the problem go away” and so the downward spiral is propelled to the bottom of the abyss. When this behaviour goes on for a long time, it can also lead to chronic illness.

Once at the bottom of the abyss, many people then continue doing things which only exacerbate the problem and their people support falls away because the people in their lives who really care are at their wits end and feel the need to protect themselves – after they have stuff going on as well.

So where to from here?

The talker is often crying out for help the only way she knows how. Next time you see someone who needs a bit of help, a shoulder or an ear, just ask them if they are OK and make the time to really listen, to share, to be and I wonder what you will notice first – maybe a sense of peace, maybe a sense of giving, maybe a glimmer of hope, maybe a way forward.

I remember when we were kids, my mum used to tell us about

a wise old owl who sat on an oak

the more he heard

the less he spoke

the less he spoke, the more he heard

oh, why can’t we be like that wise old bird

Let me know when you’re ready to explore this – I’d love to hear from you


Until next time