This past weekend, an old friend of mine got married. I’ve been friends with him for a long time — over a decade, in fact. I’ve traveled to visit him, made a point of visiting the cities he’s lived in before he made his next move. I really care about the guy, and was ecstatic to learn of his engagement. However, I didn’t attend the wedding. Why? Well, it’s simple: I wasn’t invited.

Not invited? But didn’t I just say that I’d been friends with the guy for years, and that I’d traveled to visit him on more than one occasion? Why yes, I did. But here’s the thing: I can’t really blame my friend for the lack of an invitation. You see, I made a subtle mistake in my friendship with him. It’s one I’ve made all too often before. My mistake was in assuming that my perception of my friendly gestures is equal to my friend’s perception of my gestures. I care about my friends; I care a lot. But a lot of times I care a lot on the inside and not so much on the outside. I spend a lot of time thinking about my friends, wondering how they’re doing, what new things are happening in their lives, but really communicating with them to find out for sure. And then occasionally I gear up to go spend some face time with them, traveling an hour or more to do so. I may miss follow-through on the small things, but those big moments I keep up with. However, the things I consider to be grand gestures of friendship — like taking trips to another city when I’m not someone who travels much — don’t always translate the same way to my friends — some of whom are big travelers and think it’s no big deal to hop over to another city for a weekend or more. So what might be a big effort for me is not the same for others.

But shouldn’t they be more understanding of my great effort? Actually, that’s kind of the opposite of my point. Maybe I should be more understanding of them. If I can’t keep up with the truly little things, like phone contact with my out-of-town friends, then my grand gestures fall just a little flat. It’s great when I’m in town, but the majority of year we are miles apart, and if I’m not taking the time to remember the relationship, why should I expect them to? We may be involved in different activities, but it’s not like they’re less busy than I am. Just like in anything else, the big gestures (and their results) are obvious, but the little things add up in ways that will eventually be noticed. If I want to better at my friendships, and really all my relationships, acting on the small moments I think about is definitely a good place to start.

What about you? Have you ever found a gap where your actions weren’t quite as big as your thoughts or intentions were? Or are you great at keeping up with your distantly-located friends?

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