By Nayaswami Dharmadevi
November 5, 2019

Only three years after moving to Ananda, Swami Kriyananda asked me and Narayan to step into a leadership role. Before Ananda, I worked very happily on my own and actually had little in-person contact. All of my correspondence as a teacher of holistic healing was, by choice, through email. I wouldn’t have classified myself as socially awkward but antisocial would be a fair description!

What did I know about leadership? Absolutely nothing. Swamiji gave me very little advice but one day he offered me this priceless pearl of wisdom, which I’d like to share with you:

“As a leader, people will not like you… But because they will know that you’ll act dharmically [do the right thing], they will love you.”

Swamiji was addressing something in me with which many of us struggle – the need to be liked. Have you ever been peer-pressured into doing something against your better judgement?

I remember getting drawn into doing (many!) stupid things as a teenager for which I had absolutely no inclination of my own. Why? I wanted to be liked. Good news is, I got a lot of stupid things out of my system at an early age. And thankfully, I was protected along the way. 

As a sophomore in high school, there was a girl in my class who was a mutual friend of my best friend. Though we had always been cordial with each other, she decided at some point that she didn’t like me. Like a salesman who was losing his sale, I tried to win her friendship. I don’t exactly remember how I “tried to win her friendship,” but for an entire year it troubled me that this one person didn’t like me. 

Finally, I gave up and told myself, “If she doesn’t want to be my friend, that’s up to her. I can still be her friend.” I consciously let go of the need to be liked by her. And the strangest thing happened – the next day she decided she wanted to be friends again. Coincidence? I don’t think so. This experience stayed with me as an important life lesson. 

Where does that need to be liked come from? Perhaps we mistake being liked for soul friendship. We want to be liked in order to find security but we won’t find that security outside, in the opinions of others, but only in God and God reflected through divine friends.

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Human love and friendship have their basis in service on the physical, mental, or business plane. They are short-lived and conditional. Divine love has its foundation in service on the spiritual and intuitional planes, and is unconditional and eternal.”

We all need divine friends.

He continues, “Friendship is God’s love shining through the eyes of your loved ones, calling you home to drink His nectar of all selfishness-dissolving unity. Friendship is God’s trumpet call, bidding the soul to destroy the partitions that separate it from other souls and from Him. True friendship unites two souls so completely that they reflect the unity of Spirit.” 

Be a divine friend to others by trying always to keep their highest potential at the forefront of your mind. Do not slip into negative thoughts or even worse, negative talk about another person. As Yoganandaji says, “By being true to yourself and a true friend to others, you gain the friendship of God. Your love will expand until it becomes the one Love which flows through all hearts.”