We arrived at trailhead after dark and the temperature after climbing three thousand feet had dropped considerably. The wind whistled through the trees encapsulated in ice and the ground was hard underfoot. After thirty minutes of hiking we found a somewhat sheltered area to set up camp and began the delicate task of building a fire with frozen fingers in thirty mile an hour winds. This was the beginning of an unforgettable trip into the North Carolina wilderness with a good friend. We experienced the adventure of a nighttime hike, finding warmth, a beautiful sunrise, deep and open conversation, laughter, freedom, and joy. As I ended my last post on friendship, I quoted Aristotle’s use of an old proverb, ‘Eating salt together’. When I hear that phrase two things come to mind, deep, real conversation and memorable shared experiences in a spirit of humility and authenticity. Both of these are essential to true friendship.
We obviously get to know each other through sharing life and conversation. However, the ways in which we share life and converse are important to the depth of the friendship. Individually, our various life experiences have different levels of impact on our souls. For instance, going grocery shopping would have a less profound effect on my soul than going on a hike. Talking about the weather has less of an impact than talking about the purpose of the weather. If I’m at the bar watching the game with friends while enjoying cold beer, I will certainly have an enjoyable time, yet the impact that has on my soul might be much less than if I were to go with friends to support a homeless shelter. In the same way, our shared experiences impact the depth of our friendships. Of course, every experience cannot be deep and profound and one often does not experience deep and profound things with a new acquaintance. As time passes and I’m building a friendship my hope is that it delves into deeper experiences and deeper conversations. If I spent all my time with friends over a beer, talking about sports, my friendships would only reach a certain level of depth and intimacy, but if my time with friends is in varied experiences, and conversations about purpose, hopes, dreams, struggles, foundational principles of life, then the opportunity for real deep friendships is truly there. The difficulty is that it always takes one to initiate the depth and here is where we wade into the waters of humility, authenticity, and vulnerability.
Let’s begin with a short discussion of humility. This virtue often gets a bad name because it is seen as weak, belittling, and limiting. However, a true understanding of humility is not thinking less of oneself, but thinking of oneself less. In other words, humility is seeing oneself as one truly is. The humble man is not surprised or frustrated at his weakness nor is he surprised or embarrassed by his successes. He is thankful in all things and honest in his self-assessment. Practically, the humble man does not parade his good actions before others nor hide his failures out of shame. He is who he is and presents himself to the world as such.
Humility is a prerequisite for authenticity or vulnerability. One who is motivated as I often am, by perceptions of what others might think, has great difficulty in being open, vulnerable, and authentic. Such a person is constantly worried about how he will be perceived and so only reveals those things about himself he deems will be received well and with praise or adulation. True friendship flourishes when both parties are truly authentic. Sharing their lives in such a way that faults are not hidden and successes are not exaggerated. In such friendships one finds encouragement, compassion, admonishment when necessary, and a companion for life’s journey.
Salt. It brings out flavor in food, complements a good margarita, it has healing properties for our bodies and is truly a necessity. Salt can also be quite painful, when one has sweat in one’s eyes or even salt in an open wound. Eating salt together is the same for friendship. It brings out the ‘flavor’, complements the natural goodness of each person, provides healing to hurts, and sometimes opens us to being hurt as well. My trip to the North Carolina wilderness was certainly painful at times and not the most comfortable physically or emotionally yet it also began forming a deep bond of friendship. Salt brings so much to the world of food in the same way that the old proverb speaks about how eating salt together forms bonds of friendship. Even with the possibility of being hurt, eating salt together, sharing life and oneself authentically, is an essential aspect of building a true friendship.
I’ve shared below some experiences I’ve had with friends as well as conversations that have led to a deepening of friendship. Perhaps try a few of them yourself next time you get together with someone whom you want to build a deeper relationship. I hope you’ll be blessed with authentic friendships formed through eating salt together!
-Working on projects together (planning events, yard work, assembling a bench, any household job that needs doing)
-Service work (soup kitchens, make lunches and bring to the homeless)
-Reading – sharing writings with each other
-Anything new – kayaking, canoeing
-Take a cooking class
-Share dreams & hopes for the future (if you don’t share them how will they ever happen?) e.g. If you could do anything what would it be? Where would you want to travel? How do you want to impact the world?
-Lessons learned/important experiences from travels
-Relationships & family
-How God has touched my life