As a vicar I meet new people all the time, and largely I’m required to be friendly to them. It’s sort of expected. I have no problem with this, in fact, I think it’s great that people see me and their immediate assumption is that I’m probably generally benevolent.
The tricky bit is that I’d like to be more than generally benevolent. I suppose I’m trying to tease out the difference between being friendly (which might include saying hello, exchanging the time of day, smiling, holding the door open for someone, engaging in small talk, etc) and being a friend to someone (which opens a whole other can of worms).
To offer yourself as a friend to someone is to take the risk that that person may turn out to have quite substantial needs, or may really need to talk about something that is bothering them… It is to offer your time, your emotional engagement, your energy. And, if it a real friendship develops, it also means that you, too, may need to ask for help, to share a burden than you have been carrying – and some people find that very hard to do. Any relationship involves a certain vulnerability and that can feel like a big risk to take.
Friendships are places where joys and sorrows, hopes, fears and dreams can be shared. And ‘being friendly’ can lead to an investment which is demanding and rewarding. I suppose for me, the question remains how much of the time I really do have the personal, emotional, spiritual and physical energy to move from general benevolence to something more.