11/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How Our Friends Can Help Us Find More Joy -- If We Let Them!

Are you a proud, self-made guy or gal? It does feel good to be self-reliant and independent, forging your way through this world on your own. And admit it, you do like showing off a bit to those who can't quite seem to get by without a little -- or a lot, in some cases -- help from others. There is certainly joy in personal accomplishments, but what are you left with if it all comes crashing down? If you truly make it on your own, will anyone else care if your life starts to crumble?

I can't emphasize enough the importance of friends as a source of joy in our lives, not only when things are going well but also when things go bad -- especially then. When things go bad, friends can often make a key difference in whether we are able to find joy in our darkest moments.

I have some great friends, and I discovered just how great they are when I recently experienced a major change in my life that resulted in an unexpected move. Not only did some lend their hands to move furniture, but others offered an ear and listened to all I was experiencing. One friend gave me dishes and a kitchen table and chairs that held sentimental value to her. Still others surprised me with gift cards to local stores, homemade bread, dinner out or just a simple but reassuring hug. And it wasn't just the very best of friends who helped; what surprised me most was the generosity of mere acquaintances. Would I do the same given the chance?

Yes, I'm one of those independent guys who really doesn't like to ask others for help. For some reason, it feels like a sign of weakness. But with what I've experienced lately, I've had to let that go and ask for help. I'd prefer to go it alone, as ridiculous as that now sounds, but only by being honest about the reality of my situation and my needs have I received joy.

That's right. In the midst of a major life upheaval, I can say I've found something about which to be joyful: my friends. The rest of my life may be a source of conflict, insecurity or pain, but I've seen how friendship can help us withstand the worst that life can throw our way.

And guess what -- being independent isn't such a big deal anymore. Sure, it has its merits, but I now see there are other ways to lead a fulfilling and joyful life. What about you? Has there been a time in your life when your friends helped you maintain a joyful outlook? And if you haven't yet had to rely on your friends in this way, don't take them for granted; one day, you'll need them.

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