The True Meaning of Friendship
“Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.” – Henry David Thoreau
I’ve been thinking about friendship, the true meaning of friendship.
When we’re young we don’t seem to have a lot of requirements when choosing a friend, but as we gain some life experiences we become a little more discriminating.
Friendships go through seasons, just like any other relationship. Some close friends drift apart, others fade away, some just limp along and a few…very few work through their issues, they talk about what’s going on.
As I was contemplating this I became very clear on what I want in a friendship. One of the most important aspects for me is honesty. I want to know what’s going on…good or bad…whether on my end or my friend’s. Whether it’s awkward, painful or difficult; I want honesty!
Tell me if I’m the problem in the relationship; tell me if I have done something to hurt you. I want to know where I stand. I don’t want politeness, avoidance, putting up with or putting on a good face.
Tell me if you are having problems. Let me know if you can’t seem to move on and need to cry, complain or just plain stay depressed for a year.
By being honest you give me the choice how to show up in our friendship.
So often, as I listen to others, there seem to be issues that come up, maybe a phase in life, maybe a personality quirk, more often though it’s just a misunderstanding that becomes the undoing of the friendship. In a truly good friendship one can discuss that.
Just recently someone shared that she was very hurt by her friend who seemed dismissive.
Typically, in relationships, we just charge ahead and act as if nothing is wrong. We’re OK…on the surface. Underneath, however, we hurt. That hurt doesn’t disappear just because we pretend we’re OK. These things usually add up over time and create a bigger rift that often can no longer be bridged.
It takes love and honesty, a desire to have a solid relationship, loyalty and an ability to see a bigger picture to address the issue in a way that isn’t critical and accusatory. It takes being vulnerable and authentic.
It takes being open and real.
After mulling it over for a while, this person chose to address it with her friend in a genuine and open manner without blame. The result was a loving, honest conversation wherein both saw that there were several misunderstandings. Both walked away feeling heard and surprised by the love that showed up in the conversation and each felt honored in their relationship.
It strengthened their friendship.
On the other end of the spectrum, another woman told me that she was fed up with the fact that her (loyal, supportive and caring) friend expected her to come to her side of town too often for get-togethers and rarely had time to come to her.
She had simply had enough with that behavior and besides she could point out lots of other faults as well.
It was easy to see that this was all about feeling hurt and insignificant.
As you might guess, that friendship went by the wayside, slowly but surely. There was no honest, real conversation about misunderstandings and hurt feelings, which left both of them bewildered, hurt and abandoned by the other and subsequently justified in letting go of what was a good friendship.
We all have quirks, annoying habits, less lovable aspects… those things can be dealt with if we value the relationship. It takes two, of course. As in any relationship, both parties have to be willing otherwise there is no relationship.
Although we can never really walk in someone else’s shoes, we can attempt to see life from the other’s perspective. We can try to put ourselves in the other person’s world and gain a better understanding for their choices in life.
The other thing I know that I want is Loyalty. If we have reached a place where we have seen the other in good situations and bad, happy and sad and still decide to be friends, then we have a solid friendship.
If one of those friends goes through an especially hard time for whatever reason…..maybe a year or more…..hang in there with them. Be loyal! Life is tough, plans don’t turn out; the boat may capsize in the rough seas of life…hang in there with your friend.
“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” – Euripides
Come back to the honesty if he or she complains too much or is a downer for too long.
Friendship is one of the most valuable things in life, more valuable than your house or any of your possessions. Friendship is the thing that will pull you through life’s hardest times, lonely and frustrating times. Friendship will pull you through devastating losses. Friendship can put you back together when you’ve come undone.
Choose your friends carefully; look for shared values, an open, loving heart, compassion, honesty and loyalty.
Once you have found that, don’t let it go for any reason.
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” – Thomas Aquinas
Another perspective by Alex Lickerman M.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201312/the-true-meaning-friendship