Recent events have forced me to think a lot about what friendship means to me.
That last sentence can be interpreted in at least two ways:
- I have thought about what it means to me to be friends with someone.
- I have thought about what the value of friendship is to me.
To be honest, I’ve thought a lot about both interpretations, and in the course of my thoughts, have discussed various aspects of friendship with some of my best friends. Rather unsurprisingly, I seem to share a lot of my values with the very people that I apply these values to.
There lies a lot of difficulty in writing about friends and/or friendship, as any relationship issues involve not just one single opinion or view of the world, but many, which may stand in conflict with each other. As a result, I don’t think I’ll be able to define my view of friendship exhaustively or conclusively here, but this will be a start.
Let’s start with a quick quote from the corresponding Wikipedia article:
Friendship is a term used to denote co-operative and supportive behavior between two or more humans. (…) the term connotes a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, and affection. Friends will welcome each other’s company and exhibit loyalty towards each other, often to the point of altruism. Their tastes will usually be similar and may converge, and they will share enjoyable activities. They will also engage in mutually helping behavior, such as exchange of advice and the sharing of hardship. A friend is someone who may often demonstrate reciprocating and reflective behaviors. Yet for many, friendship is nothing more than the trust that someone or something will not harm them. Value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating on a consistent basis:
- the tendency to desire what is best for the other,
- sympathy and empathy,
- honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one’s counterpart
- mutual understanding.
There are so many points in that one quote that I hardly know where to begin writing about it. I’ll just follow the text, and point out stuff that I find noteworthy.
Friendship involves mutual knowledge
An implication of this is that either you spend a fair amount of time with each other, allowing the other person’s personality to emerge, or you talk a lot about things that motivate you, or both. One of the key terms here is mutual, that is, both participants share a little of themselves and in turn learn something about the other.
Friendship involves mutual esteem
A person for which you have no respect is not a friend. Now respect is something that needs to be earned, which in a friendship is quite often done by exhibiting the qualities that one looks for in a friend. A friendship may well be sparked by an unusual event, where the other person exhibits behaviour that demands immediate respect — but in the long run, it’s compatible personality traits that feeds mutual esteem.