Defining Friendship

If you type into a Google search box “friendship” you get 258,000,000 results – the topmost entry is the Wikipedia entry, and at the bottom of the first page you have helpful related searches such as “the meaning of friendship”, “friendship quotes” or the “definition of friendship”.

Let’s talk about that last one: the definition of friendship. It’s an elusive task, to put definitive barriers around what friendship is and isn’t, but I’m going to try because if there are reliable things of value in modern life they are the people. It is worth an attempt to figure out some types of measures of who we ought keep close to us.

  1. Friends support you even when they don’t
    That sounds funny at first, doesn’t it? Obviously, a supportive friend is someone who is always behind you, no matter what, right?
    Wrong. No, a friend supports you, sometimes, by disagreeing with the decisions that you make. A friend supports you by looking out for you even when you don’t know how, or aren’t capable of, doing so yourself. I try to surround myself with people who are strong enough to say no to me. I’ve been told that I can be intimidating – I need to have people around me who don’t fall under the sway of my purported resoluteness, but who can dig their heels in and bonk me on the head as necessary.
    Find friends who aren’t afraid to disagree you because they have your best interests at heart. It matters.
  2. Friends make time for you
    This is one of the type of things that should be self-evident, but the reality is that modern life – and by modern I mean both social media / networking of all varieties (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, et al.) and a culture that promotes multi-tasking, productivity, and individual successes as paramount – it’s very easy to let actual, in-person, physical, and deep relationships fall to the wayside. Despite any number of articles or books that say “friends matter”, we tend not to treat them as important as they actually are. Real friends don’t let that happen. They answer phone calls and messages in a timely fashion. They adjust their schedules, busy that they may be, accordingly. They are willing to plan things – dinners, lunches, coffee dates, walks, etc. – in advance and stick to them. They apologize, sincerely, for when those plans must fall through. Real friends make the time.
  3. Friends don’t compete
    In comparison to the other things I’ve said, this seems tiny, perhaps minor, but it really isn’t. Remember a few sentences ago I talked that our current culture promotes individual successes as paramount? Sometimes, and I think this to be an unconscious thing, we let that attitude seep into our most intimate and personal of relationships. Especially since a number of us meet our close friends in college and our first jobs, it’s ridiculously easy to start thinking “well, I’m doing a better job than Jim” or “why did Erin get that promotion and not me?” Resist that urge, because real friends don’t let those less important things get in the way. Congratulate your friends when they’ve earned things, even if it’s greater than what you have (don’t be envious). Commiserate with them when they don’t, even if you’re fine (don’t be superior, luck matters quite a lot in this world). Life is a race – it’s a marathon! But, your friends are not your competition. They are in the same race you are, there is no question of that, but they are running with you, not against you.

I forget some of the above at times. We all do, we’re only human. But reminders are there for just for that reason, so take this as a reminder: protect, honor, and cherish the friendships you have, and go into the new ones you may make with the same attitude and resolve. Like I said, life is a marathon, and we need all the help we can get to make it to the finish, and we have an reciprocal duty to give all the help we can to those running it step-by-step with us.

According to Google, there’s at least 258,000,000 ways to do that – I dare you to find one more.

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