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How to Learn From Friendship Lessons and Chance Encounters

As a nationally certified and licensed professional counselor, Janis helps her clients resolve relationship conflicts and trust issues.

Chance friendships become special moments in time to cherish and remember for the lessons we learn from them.

Chance friendships become special moments in time to cherish and remember for the lessons we learn from them.

Unexpected Friendships Give Our Lives New Meaning

As we move through our lives on the paths set for us, we meet countless souls along the way. Many of the people we meet enter our lives due to advanced planning, while some we meet come into our lives purely by chance. Whether lovers, dear friends, or mysterious strangers, it appears that most of our chance meetings were destined and placed in our lives for a reason.

Once the encounter comes to its completion, we might gain a better understanding of the encounter by reframing it. To reframe means we look at the bigger picture and assign a larger purpose to the encounter from which we can learn and grow. Our challenge is to figure out what that purpose might be as we cherish the experiences gained.

These life encounters enter and exit at anytime, and are either brief or extended in duration. It's usually when the encounter comes to an end, sometimes suddenly, that we are left to answer the question, "What was the meaning behind that person being in my life?" This question, after some pondering, brings us to accept that chance encounters were indeed meant to be, if only for a season.

Sometimes this question is accompanied by feelings of grief and loss. But by attempting to pull forth meaning from the experience, the loss, over time, is eased as we embrace wisdom. This wisdom may result from lessons learned from involvement in an intense, short-lived relationship, a six-month stint with a psychotherapist, a secret friendship, or a five-hour conversation during a shared train ride. In the end, we will eventually conclude that the encounter made an indelible mark on each of our lives.

"Sometimes the slightest things change the directions of our lives, the merest breath of a circumstance, a random moment that connects like a meteorite striking the earth. Lives have swiveled and changed direction on the strength of a chance remark."

— Bryce Courtenay

Chance Meetings Have a Poetic Purpose

The poem "Just for a Season" presents the notion of deriving meaningful lessons from chance meetings, as we pass through each other's lives. Some refer to these chance meetings as fate, destiny, or divine intervention. Others say they are random occurrences or the power of free will or choice. And still others insist that encounters are ushered in by angels watching over us.

Regardless of one's beliefs of philosophic explanations, most will agree that there is something to be learned and cherished about each and every chance encounter we experience. It is up to the individual to discern the meaning and purpose of each encounter.

"Just for a Season"

You came into my life in need

Seeking rhyme and reason

A meeting not meant to last for long

Just for a brief season.

Time is all so relative

One hour or one year

It goes by in a flash of light

With so much more to share.

How long have I known you now?

Forever it would seem

I've seen you through your ups and downs

We did it like a team.

I witnessed your integrity

Your values and your strengths

Observed your vulnerability

As we talked at length.

But more than the sharing of your pain

Or the attentiveness of my ear

There was more to our brief season

Than the shedding and wiping of tears.

It's the fate of the encounter

That it was meant to be

Placed into each other's lives

To learn what neither could see.

I thank you for teaching me kindness

And unconditional love

Acceptance and compassion

All heaven sent from above.

Those unexpected lessons

For which we are so blessed

With deeper understanding

Of all that we addressed.

For now I let you go in peace

God bless you in your endeavor

Although each time we say good-bye

We are sealed forever.

You never know who might be

Entwined in your story's chapter

So cherish each meeting and brief season

Today . . . and ever after.

[All Rights Reserved: JLE 2007]

Some Special Friendships End Up Lasting Forever

Couples often choose to meet again, capitalizing on the opportunity presented by the chance encounter.

Couples often choose to meet again, capitalizing on the opportunity presented by the chance encounter.

"It is by chance that we met, by choice that we became friends."

— Henri Nouwen

How We Can Learn From Chance Encounters

As you try to figure out the meaning and purpose of your chance encounters, recent or long ago, take into account the following questions to explore. Use these questions to discern why that person has entered your life at a particular time and place. The answers may help you to grieve, grow, let go, and move forward. Whether the experience gained from the encounter was good or bad, something valuable can be gleaned for clarity and understanding.

Ask yourself:

  1. "What did I learn about myself as a result of this chance meeting?"
  2. "What larger purpose did this person serve in my life?"
  3. "What was God possibly trying to tell me about this encounter?"
  4. "What message did I receive about this encounter?"
  5. "How did this chance encounter change me as a person?"
  6. "What have I lost as a result of this encounter?"
  7. "What have I gained as a result of this encounter?"
  8. "How might this person grow as a result of having a chance encounter with me?"
  9. "How has this chance encounter blessed me?"
  10. "What paths did I end up choosing as a result of the chance encounter?"

You can apply what you've learned to future relationships and situations. This self-assessment can reveal very valuable information about you and how you relate to others. It involves the hard work of self-examination which ultimately leads to healing and growth from the experiences we encounter in life, either by fate, destiny, or by chance.

Chance Encounters: Why Do They Happen?

© 2015 Janis Leslie Evans