What if your closest friend is someone you haven’t met?

There’s an old story I want to share.  Like most old tales, I’ve heard it told in various forms.  True or not, the point is a good one.

There was once a university professor who visited a Japanese Zen master (I’ve also heard this was a Buddhist monk, but you get the point).  The professor wanted to learn more about Zen.

After welcoming his visitor, the Zen master asked if he would enjoy some tea.

Knowing he should accept, the professor smiled and thanked the Zen master for his generosity.

The Zen master disappeared and then quickly reappeared with two cups and some steaming tea.  The master smiled back as he poured tea into the cup.  The professor watched the cup fill, and continued to watch as it overflowed.  He put his hand up and exclaimed, “Stop!  It’s overflowing.  You’re wasting the tea and no more can fit in the cup!”

The Zen master nodded and calmly explained.  “You are here to ask questions.  Yet you come full.  You have your own ideas and have no space.  Until you have room for more, you will not accept new information.”

How Full is Your Cup?

It’s a powerful reminder about preconceptions.  We all too often have such strongly held opinions that we are not really able to take in all of the new information.  That part is obvious.

But today I thought about the story in a different way.  What if, instead of ideas, we thought about our relationships?  How many of us think, “I have enough friends.  I have no room for any more.”  We hit a certain age and we are comfortable with the people around us.  What do we lose by not making room for new people in our lives? 

In the course of my career, I’ve moved to different cities.  I’ve noticed that it can be difficult to move into a new area.  You are forced to let some relationships go.  Even with technology, it’s difficult to maintain long-distance relationships in the same way as when you live close by.  At the same time, you are forced to seek new connections with people.  And that’s when you notice this phenomenon.  Sometimes people have no room for new friends.  You can reach out, but they don’t have any space for a new relationship.

All of us have limited time.  It’s not possible to have an unlimited number of very close friends.  But, I don’t ever want to cut myself off from people.  Some of the people I would describe as life-long friends are people I’ve only met since I moved here to Nashville.  I’m so glad that they welcomed me into their lives.  And I’m glad I made room for them.

Take time in your life to make room for new friends.  You may find that some new ideas and new relationships provide unexpected returns.  What if your closest friend in the world is someone you haven’t met yet?


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