The best thing you can have, and the best thing you can be
Friend. The word hits deeply for anyone whose life has been enriched by the existence of a friend. But what do we even mean, and what should we mean by this sacred word?
The purpose of friendship
Loneliness is synonymous with hunger—a lack of emotional sustenance. We need close friendships because we are nourished by the company of someone who cares about us…
Over the course of your life, friendships are going to be one of the most meaningful and important things you will have. There are lots of things that are going to happen to you in your life, and there are also lots of things wrong with you and with others. It is through relationships that we have dialogue, support, and warmth, and those things can help you face the vicissitudes of life with greater resilience.
Qualities of a good friendship
A friend knows what lies in your shadows, and remains standing by your side. A bond rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. A friend is one who makes an effort to extend compassion to their friend who has made mistakes – perhaps in ways similar but also different from our own. We encourage the best in them, not through critique, but through the ability to see their better nature, their strengths, and their potential.
Friendship is a demonstration of forgiveness. The ideal friend sees the faults in another person as a result of their development and history, and the troubles which may not be seen on the surface. A friend doesn’t expect the other to be flawless; on the contrary, they let each other see the weird and potentially embarrassing things about themselves. Friendships that are sustained over time are reinforced by those who reveal their vulnerabilities and repeatedly forgive one another for their errs.
Strong friendship is telling by its quiet confidence. Lovers frequently examine and discuss their “relationship,”—where it’s going, what it’s doing, what’s wrong with it—but friends let their regard for one another speak for itself or let others point it out. Friendship requires mutual will and if not reciprocated, it simply ceases to exist. A friendship is not forced, and it’s centred around harmony.
The right friend listens and helps us piece together our self-understanding. Helpful friends may point out our quirks, patterns, and talents that we never witnessed in ourselves. Friends tell you straight up, but with grace, your errors, patterns, and key insights worth considering. Friends are different than you, as such they offer a different perspective and can show you where your blind sports are, and vice versa.
“A friend holds a mirror up to us and thus brings us closer to ourselves” — Aristotle
Friends ask us questions, and when we don’t quite know what we think, they encourage us to expand on a thought, to explain why, to elaborate on our feelings, and to help them understand.
Adulting is interchangeable with the idea of being serious. We must be responsible for so much in our every day lives, we must conduct ourselves in a generally acceptable way to society, and we must be politically correct. However, this rational and controlled self is only a snippet of who we really are—and seriousness is the enemy of getting close to others.
The friends you feel closest to are those who you can let your guard down with, be silly in front of, say off-the-wall things and make absurd inside-jokes with. Silliness brings energy, adds humor and warmth, and encourages others to not be so rigid. It lifts moods, diffuses negativity and well, being silly is FUN!!! Being silly can transform relationships with others, because at last, we’ve found someone to be fool with!
Stronger with time
As romantic love is often most attractive in its infancy, friendship is most treasured as the years go by. It is built on the accumulation of past experiences, and not the promise of future ones. Where romantic relationships juggle the power, friendship is about creating a space where power ceases to exist.
A friend gets to know you through the ages and has stuck by you. This long-standing friendship provides space to poke fun at each other—allowing genuinely awkward and difficult things to be raised in an atmosphere of affection. When your friend teases you, it might even sting, but you like it. They know your faults and like you anyway…
In many ways, friendship delivers what a romantic relationship promises, yet fails to provide. We often view just friends as a disheartening consolation prize. Yet it is often within friendship that we are most caring, encouraging, patient, funny and kind. We expect less than we do of our romantic partners and therefore, tend to forgive much more. We don’t insist that we are fully understood, as such we are also more tolerant.
There are wonders in true affection, however. Within the dualities of electricity and exasperation, desire and disappointment, pleasure and pain, longing and loss — whatever the outcome, whatever its duration, a love relationship is a beautiful achievement and a time to be revered. Unlike friendship, love seems to demand pain and tension in order to prove itself. We often feel hurt in love and believe we are the only ones feeling pain, but the other is most often suffering as well as you — possibly more than you. The suffering and tough conversations are part of the transformation and the growth, and what creates closeness and depth.
Lasting love isn’t easy and triumphs, sometimes painfully, over the hurdles erected by time, space and the earth. Love relationships are far more difficult than friendships, but in our ability and willingness to endure and show tenderness for each other, we are rewarded with closeness and friendship unparalleled.