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two hands forming a heartFall is definitely in the air today, and the signs are showing on the hills of my home state! Just as spring gifts us with the forty shades of green known throughout the countryside of my ancestors, the calico quilt colors emerging this autumn add to memories of my childhood in the hills. Among these wonderful memories are friendships that have endured a lifetime. A song by Andrew Gold, which became the theme song of one of my favorite TV shows, brings a smile as I hum, “Thank you for being a friend!”

It seems we have an easier time establishing and maintaining enduring connections with some more than others. I’ve puzzled over why an existing or promising relationship fizzled out. I try to always remember that building strong associations relies on mutual interaction. While each of us contributes to the dynamics, it’s only my behavior that I can change. The same can also be said of groups I’ve joined for various reasons. In fact, through such groups, I’ve formed remarkable friendships!

The main trait I try to bring to any relationship is personal integrity. It’s also what I seek. For me, this trait is built on five key qualities:

  • Trustworthiness is the “make or break” one. A breach of trust can severely damage a relationship, whether it’s new or old.
  • Honesty tempered by kindness is essential, as it requires speaking openly and objectively from the heart.
  • Dependability is another core characteristic. Partners can count on me to be there when I say I will and do what I say I will.
  • Loyalty is another component given value displayed early on. I work to be a person who keeps confidences, does not gossip about others, or allows others to criticize them — especially when they aren’t present to defend themselves.
  • To trust others and be comfortable with my vulnerability rounds off the list of qualities I strive to have when building relationships with others. I need to trust enough to be my real, authentic self. I believe that may be the most challenging for most of us.

An English teacher once shared the following truism penned by C.S. Lewis with our class: “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching,” and then left the room as a quiz started. The lesson I learned in that moment wasn’t on the sheet of questions that was handed out.

I Care, Barb


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