Friday, November 22, 2013

Friendship Defined

Friends at ease 

Friendship (Wikipedia) is a form of interpersonal relationship generally considered to be closer than association, although there is a range of degrees of intimacy in both friendships and associations. Friendship and association can be thought of as spanning across the same continuum.Value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following 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 and compassion
  • Trust in one another (able to express feelings - including in relation to the other's actions - without the fear of being judged); able to go to each other for emotional support
  • Positive reciprocity - a relationship is based on equal give and take between the two parties.

There comes a time in your life when you realize who matters, who won't anymore, who never did, and who always will. So don't worry about the people from your past, because there's a reason why they didn't make it to your future.  ~ Author Unknown
Initially this blog was supposed to be about a raw nerve that got exposed with respect to some past friends, but it seems this is going to end up, primarily, about what being and having a friend means to me. The definition above is a pretty good description for my current friends, new friends who haven't had the opportunity to mess up anything on that list and a handful of really good friends who hit all those criteria on a constant basis.
Whether on-line or in person, this definition of friendship certainly sorts out the acquaintances from those we consider 'real' friends. You know those people we just don't feel like they qualify to be considered friends? We either have to interact with them because of our jobs and even have them on our Facebook list just because we know them. And we know enough about them to understand they just don't make the cut.
I think positive reciprocity is the biggest reason potentially awesome people don't become friends even though they hit all the other examples of what makes a good friend. They, for whatever reason, are unable to engage in a mutually beneficial way that is supportive of the other person. They may prefer just knowing you at a distance, can quite possibly just be too lazy or they disagree with what you represent even when most of the above criteria is their state of being. I won't stay friends with those types because when I'm a friend, you'll know it and I expect the same in return. Face it, you really can't have the trust part either when you don't have that and eventually you lose the rest of the qualities, too.
Social networks put us in a position to possibly having way more acquaintances than real friends specifically because many might be people we haven't met in person. We don't get to see how they really engage with others. But that often isn't a great gauge either because we know people can misrepresent, for whatever reason, on-line and off-line. It's true that I may not really know them, but I've seen behaviors that can tell me a lot about their character and how they fit in that criteria above. I've been very fortunate to meet many people on my page who requested my friendship and then been very pleased to call them my friends. When I interact with them, when I can share experiences with them and see their humanity play out and they are consistent, I know I was not wrong. There are quite a few of my on-line buddies that I can truly call good friends. You know who you are. :)
I really adore most of my friends not only because they mostly adhere to the qualities above, but because I've understood for myself that I have to give in order to receive. It sounds corny and almost borders on sounding religious, but, for me, it really rings true. My friends and I aren't always overlapping in each other's lives, but if there is that ability to give as much as you can, both of you, and give genuinely what the other needs; that is what positively impacts how you really feel about the other person when you see what comes back your way.
In those relationships where I've felt that it was unbalanced and I've just given way too much of myself and nothing returns, letting go is generally the option for me. I'll try to explain it to them, but after it's already been pointed out to that person that the friendship is somewhat lop-sided and still nothing... well, it's really kind of over for me at that point. I've only got a few more good years left in me and I will not waste my time with people who aren't deserving of it.
So no matter how many friends or acquaintances you have, what you qualify them as, I would always recommend that you start with positive reciprocity. They may possess the other qualities, but more than likely, won't share them with you until you can show that you know how to give what they need. And as you continue to give, the deeper and more stable that friendship will become... and it will last.

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