Gayle King

Oprah's Tears Encourage Our Friendships

While Oprah Winfrey is generally the one asking the questions, we've long known she's also wise in answering them. In Barbara Walters "Ten Most Fascinating People" special last Thursday, Oprah reflected on her life, her 25 years hosting the national Oprah show, her relationships and her legacy. The segment from that interview that seems to be garnering the headlines is the fact that Oprah teared up, requesting a tissue. And while teasers mentioning the lesbian rumors are effective for causing viewers to stay tuned, that would be missing the point of the tears.

Oprah Cries in Talking About BFF, Gayle Oprah's most emotional moment in the one-hour special came when asked to talk about her friendship with Gayle King. Barbara acknowledged how all women want, but few seem to have, the kind of friendship these two women share.

And in typical Oprah fashion, her reflections revealed three poignant lessons about womens friendship that must be fostered if we want friendships to mature.

  1. To Want Her Happiness: According to Oprah, Gayle has cheered for her success from the very beginning, celebrating Oprah's achievements with joy. "She was even happier than I was in those moments," said an awed Oprah. All of us want our friends to be happy, few of us want them to be happier than us.

    It is far too tempting for most of us to live from a place of jealousy, envy or competition. When we are discontent with our own lives, it is far easier to devalue others or begrudge them their joy than to take responsibility in finding our own contentment. Therefore, all too often the voice of fear we listen to says: If I'm overweight, I don't want you to become thin. If I'm single, I will feel worse if you find the love of your life. If my kids are causing heartache, it is simply too much to be happy for you that yours are making straight A's. If I hate my job, it becomes more difficult to cheer for you when you start your dream company.

    To live with a worldview that believes there is enough goodness in this world for both of us fosters friendship.

  2. To Log the Hours: A classic line in the interview was "For all the therapy I didn't have. For all the therapy I don't need, it is because of the thousands of hours in talking with Gayle." Both women could be amazing, healthy, joy-full women but if they weren't putting in the time, sharing their lives with one another then an intimate friendship they would never have.

    Only familiarity breeds friendship. It's why friendship felt easier in school or work--the regularity with which we saw the same people helped us feel closer. Now, with so many of us working from home, devoting our attention to our children and moving frequently, we have to be diligent to carve out the time to put in the hours for that friendship to develop.

    To live in such a way that we schedule consistent time to share life together in meaningful ways ensures intimacy in our friendships.

  3. To Affirm the Role: Oprah loves Gayle, no doubt about it: "She is the mother I never had. She is the sister every person would want. She is the friend everyone deserves. I don't know a better person." But when asked what provoked the tears after this statement, it was because Oprah questioned whether she had really told Gayle how much she meant.

    Amazing how easy it is to go through life assuming people know what an impact they have on us. And yet, as is true for most any worthwhile thing in life, it's not the attaining of something that is as hard as the keeping of it. Affirming people for their contributions, influence and inspiration in our lives bonds us more to the people we admire.

    To live with gratitude for the people who choose to journey with us shows that we see them for who they are in our lives.

Oprah has made her billions, given her millions and arguably changed the lives of just as many, but we'd be remiss to not notice that her tears were reserved for those she loved: Stedman and Gayle. May she inspire you to find your voice, live your best self and contribute to the world. But may her tears also inspire you to foster the friendships that matter along the way.