Most people go through life never having had a soul friend. They often think they have (oh the times I've fought to restrain my eyes from rolling on hearing people say "I know what you mean, me and _______ are just like that!") but soul friendship requires more than most are willing to risk.
Soul friendship requires:
- Love. Duh.
- Permanence. This means that if I babysit your child and s/he runs out into the street while I'm distracted, gets hit by a car and dies, you're not allowed to just hate me and drop me from your life. You're allowed to hate me, but you have to work with me to get back to a loving relationship until we either get there or one of us dies. And vice versa -- no matter what you do to me, we have to continue an active relationship until death (and hopefully past it).
- Trust and Honesty. This means two things: first, that we share our thoughts and feelings without 'prettying them up'; second, that we make the following commitment -- if I say something that hurts/offends you, you MUST tell me right away, and vice versa. Because it is on little offenses that rifts get their start.
- Openness. This means that we seek to learn more about ourselves and seek to share that with each other, continually. Nothing is hidden; instead, we offer truths to each other freely. This is not a passive quality.
- Willingness to Change. This means that you must be prepared to make some compromises and alter yourself in some ways to better fit the other. One of those ways is exploring the other's interests, even if they seem uninteresting to you at first. I'm lucky in that very little bores me: I have always found it fairly easy to develop a true interest in something my friend is passionate about. I'm usually not willing to bother for those who are not soul friends (or potentials), though, because I tend to obsess, and I try to limit my adoption of obsessions.
- Sacrifice. By this I mean sacrificing your time, effort, and care for the other. Being willing to drop everything if the other has a need, even if that need is merely emotional, and even if that need means a whole lotta effort (like helping move).
- Humility. This means dropping your pride and asking for what you want/need, and being willing to accept loving prodding in sensitive areas.
So far, I've never met anyone who was already at the point where they were ready to give all of that. And I haven't really had success with asking my friends to stretch themselves to that point (except for Ben, of course. He poured himself out for me, went from totally closed off to so open with me). I asked Kaylene: she agreed, but then discovered that she really wasn't ready. I asked Paula: the very idea scared her so much that she retreated even from the point of trust that we had gotten to. I asked Allison: and then I didn't follow through, partly because I'm lazy, partly because I wanted to test and see if she'd actually reach to me without me reaching first -- which was unfair because I'm the experienced one. I asked Kristy: and then I didn't follow through, for the same reasons as with Allison -- but also because I felt like she wasn't willing/able to sacrifice emotionally or be honest and open, since I faced her with blatant, honest need and she didn't react except to close down emotionally.
Now I'm scared to ask. Instead, I long to meet a new person who will already be ready; I won't have to try to convince her of the value of soul friendship, and she won't have to grow rapidly for my sake. In this matter, we'll fit together perfectly, and then we can help each other grow in other areas. It may be unrealistic, but it's what I want. And if only this girl lived nearby, too, for hugs and outings when needed. And maybe she does.... maybe that girl who has brushed by my life every now and then might be ready.
EDIT: I've gotten a lot of responses saying that it's harsh or unnatural to ask someone this, that it should naturally develop. I agree that the bond should develop naturally, but I'd be offering all that stuff I mentioned. I am capable of giving that; for me to actually give it is quite a gift, and I think the other person should be aware of the gift I'm giving them and willing to give it back. It's like a marriage; usually you get to know them and bond with them before you ask them to share the rest of your life. Proposing a deeper, more committed relationship is the next step, and is neither harsh nor unnatural, but an expression of love that believes it is stronger than death.