Unfettered Friendship

chair and two umberellas
Not long ago, a friend referred to the beauty and sturdiness of “unfettered friendship.” Though he did not explain what he meant, I hear this as a friendship where there are no strings attached, where one feels the freedom to be their full selves without fearing reprisal or shame, where there are no expectations someone has to meet in order to be fully welcomed. We take whatever the other has to give, and we are grateful. And we let the other off the hook for all those things we wish they could give us but are simply unable to provide right now.

This, as I understand it, is not a soft friendship — because if nothing is on the line for us, we are emboldened to be present without the anxieties that would make us always watch our words or say things just right or make sure we’ve got the intellectual artillery to back up whatever our opinion might be. We’re just ourselves, and we trust that our unfettered friends love us as ourselves, that our friend will at times see us better than we see ourselves, that their eyes may be clear when ours go foggy, their hope sturdy when ours waver.

Then, of course, when life turns, as it inevitably does, we’ll switch sides.

In these worn, leather-rich friendships, we can take a load off because both of us expect the other’s courage to rise up on our behalf. We expect that whenever we wander too far (and knowing what constitutesĀ “too far” is a skill better left in the hands of gentle, unflustered souls), our friend will come find us, without recrimination or loading us up with heavy-handed garbage. Our friend will come alongside us and ask if we want to comeĀ back home. These friendships ground us in our life. They makes us truer women and men. These friendships allow us to breathe again.

image: “two umbrellas and a chair” by Manu Praba

5 Replies to “Unfettered Friendship”

  1. Thank you, friend! Those are the relationships I hold dear. Sadly for us, they are rare, but oh, the deep joy and comfort they bring, even if separated by hundreds of miles.

  2. Please accept my unfettered appreciation for your gentle but precise way of expressing thoughts so appropriate in our lives, but thoughts others less gifted have difficulty finding the right words for. Thank you for lending us your gift of communication.

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