Friendship in the 21st century has a somewhat different meaning than what it originally meant. If you are a member of any social media, then you might have 300+ friends, most of which you’ve never met….but….you have 300+ friends!
My favorite resource, the dictionary, defines “friend” as: 1. One who is personally well known by oneself and for whom one has warm regard or affection; intimate. 2. One with whom one is on speaking terms; an associate or acquaintance. 3. One who belongs to the same nation, party, etc., as oneself; also, one with whom one is united in some purpose, cause, etc.
To me, there has always been a difference between a “friend” and an “acquaintance“. As in the above definitions, to me, a friend is someone who you know well and have warm regard or affection for. If that definition doesn’t fit, then the person is an acquaintance. To some, I may be splitting hairs, but I don’t really think so. You see, to me, a friend is someone you feel so comfortable with and in whom you have such trust that you would share your deepest darkest secrets with and know that they, and you, are safe. In my realm of belief and experience, this isn’t true for an acquaintance. You might send both a birthday card, share a drink or have a meal, but it’s the friend that you would talk intimately with, in both and a giving and receiving relationship.
I’ve known many people in my 65 years. From school mates to co-workers to people I met through other people, I’ve known all varieties of people. Few became friends, most were acquaintances.
Real friendships are rare. Friendship takes time to grow and, like a favorite flower, needs to be nurtured and tended on a regular basis. It takes work to be a real friend and share a friendship, but, it’s happy work. The joy that is both given and received is well worth it.
Why do I believe this and value it so highly? Jim Morrison said it best, “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” I know this now, but it took decades to figure this out and the pain I put myself through in the process causes me to now value the people I count as friends so highly.
When we are children, we just want to be liked and making friends is all part of that validation that we are likeable. All too often, it’s a very traumatic process for a child to find where they fit and the other children who will like them. For me, rejection was a frequent companion on my road to learning about friendship. Of course, I like so many others before and after me, felt that there must be something wrong with me when some other child or group of children didn’t like me. Even back in my day, there was ridicule that one experienced from one’s peers when you were “different”. Painful, confusing and all a part of the learning experience.
As I grew, it still didn’t sink in that maybe it wasn’t me. I continually beat my head into the proverbial brick wall trying to fit in and make friends with others who obviously felt I was some kind of a “weirdo” and rejected me – often cruelly.
Friendship means more than being popular. It’s not about the personality of people, it’s about their character. Stop and think about the people you call friend that really fit that first dictionary definition. They’re there for you and you for them. You could call them (or they could call you) at 2 a.m. in crisis and it would be okay because you are friends. Some friends you may not see or hear from for years, because you’re personal life paths have gone in separate directions, but you could reconnect with them and it would be like it had only been yesterday that you had last spoken. Now, THAT’S friendship!
Some people would call that type of friend a “best” friend. I’m not sure I could say that. If that were the case, I would have a number of “best” friends. Best implies that they are better than all the rest. For me, when you’ve established a real, true friendship with someone, that quality doesn’t mean you can’t establish it again with another person and another and another. Yes, it’s a rare quality. There’s no way I feel you could have 300+ friendships of this nature. Perhaps that’s just my experience though.
It took me several marriages to realize that the friendship shared between myself and my partner was way more important than any other factor in the relationship. When all else dies in a relationship, if the friendship is alive and well, then there is still something to continue to share. Friendship creates a solid foundation to build a marriage on that will last beyond even the ending of the marriage (if that should happen). It also may provide an explanation for why some partners have stayed together for decades…they’re still friends.
Friends are like rare gems. Each one is special in his/her own right and you treasure that special-ness. You’ve shared much – you laughed together, cried together, perhaps even gotten drunk together and you wouldn’t trade any of it for all the money in the world. It’s a very special feeling and it returns every time you think of that friend. What better gift to be given than that of real friendship!
“Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.” Khalil Gibran