Friend is a subject I feel is complicated to write about, and to be honest it is a touchy subject for me(and saying that, I am fully aware that I will not keep the time-limit).
The free online dictionary says that a friend can be:
‘1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.
5. Friend A member of the Society of Friends; a Quaker.’
For me, the keywords in friendship are to know each other, to trust one another, support, sympathize with each other, and probably most importantly: respect and loyalty.
To know one another, both parts have to make an effort, and both parts need to open up and give something of themselves. To know one another, I think it is important to listen, to ask, being humble and perhaps not take anything for granted. Be open-minded, and curious to whom this person really is, with the desire to really get to know this person. Otherwise, one might end up thinking you know a person, and really don’t after all. If that’s the case, one might ask oneself: ‘Did I really try to see who this person is, or did I see what I wanted to see? Did he or she really open up and be himself/herself, or was I ‘given’ a wrong impression. Could it be both?’
To trust each other is really important in a friendship, I think. To do that, it is definitely easier if we know one another. The tricky thing about trust is that you have to earn trust to be trusted. On the other side it is a whole lot easier to trust someone who has already shown that they trust you. Sometimes in life you just have to trust someone before they’ve earned your trust, and sometimes you have to trust people you don’t even know or don’t know well. That is risky, and could turn out either for the better, or for the worse. But, I feel it is risky with trust whether you know the person or not. Sometimes you put your trust in a person you know, and who have earned your trust, then to find out the person couldn’t be trusted after all. That’s probably the most hurtful part. My conclusion is that trust is risky no matter what.
At the same time I’m dependent on trusting someone. If not, I will never have anywhere to relax; I will not have anywhere to be myself, I will not have anywhere to open up, I will not have anyone to really talk to, and no one I could let know how I feel and tell how I am to. That would get really lonely. I know every person is really different and definitely unique, but I believe everybody needs someone in his or her life to do those things with (of course in different amounts).
I think it is important to support your friend, but I also think it is important to not mistake that for as never disagreeing with one another, to never tell your own opinion, or to never tell your friend if you think he or she might be off track. If you can’t talk about that as a friend, who can? That does not mean that you are not being supportive (though it might feel like that for the other person), but you are giving advice out of love. Then what is to be supportive; is to stand by their side even if they choose not to listen to your advice. It is to stand by their side when they may do something you recognize as a bad choice, and show that you’re still there, and that you don’t judge them. The not judging part is also tricky, because there are several factors in the picture.1) You may not mean to judge; yet you still do (usually without knowing). 2) You don’t mean to judge, and you don’t judge either, but because that person has some thoughts about it him-or herself, he or she may think you are being judgmental. In reality they are actually judging themselves. 3) Some people feel that anything said against them is to be judging. There are usually reasons behind that, but it also can make things difficult in a friendship.
To sympathize in friendship is something I think is valuable, because it can be difficult to understand one another sometimes. Some things cannot be fully understood if not experienced, and rarely have two friends experienced the exact same things. If I sympathize, I understand that even though I don’t exactly understand what the person are going through or why, I am understanding that I can give the person some slack, and be supportive. That is also something that can be challenging if the person doesn’t open up a little and say that something is going on, or that there is a reason they are not quite themselves. But if they do, it gives me the opportunity to ask: ‘how can I help or how can I behave (or not behave) to make it easier for you?’ If I don’t know that there is something wrong (and I don’t necessarily need to know what), it is hard for me to help or to avoid doing or saying something that may upset that person. It also works the other way around. With sympathy in the picture, my friend will be able to understand if I can help with some things, but there are things I cannot do if it crosses my own limits. This part is also dependent on some sort of communication.
The last sentence I wrote is also a part that goes under the word respect. Respect is something I think is one of the absolutely most important parts of a relationship. Whatever type of relationship we are talking about, be it romantic, friendly or family.
I searched the Internet for a definition of respect, and there are so many different opinions on that. Therefore I will share with you what meaning I place on the word ‘respect’. Respect in a relationship, for me, is to be able to be friends without having to agree on everything. It’s acceptance for the differences in personalities, attitude, opinion, gender, ‘race’ (etc.). But if the attitude or actions of another person affects you badly, you are allowed to draw a line, speak up to say that it is not okay for you, without being disrespectful. The respectful thing to do for the other person will then be to apologize and not do it to you again. This action means that the person respects your limits and tries not to step over them again. In this (situation) also lies forgiveness for mistakes, which I will write about later in this post.
In a friendship you may start off by liking the person, then he or she might grow on you, and you begin to love the person. After you cross that line, things might get complicated; because love is a choice that at first develops naturally. Later, you might find out that you don’t always like the person, though you still care. Then you have to choose again: either to stop loving the person and not being close after all, or to love the person and accept that you don’t always like him or her, or that there is a side to that person that you don’t like. After that you stick to your choice if you want to remain friends. It is a good thing to bear in mind that no one is perfect. But, of course, if you were continually not being treated well, it would probably be wise not to remain close friends.
Loyalty is equally important to me in a friendship as respect. To be loyal is usually thought of as being faithful in a romantic relationship, or to stick with your firm in a work-situation. In a friendship, I think that loyalty is about keeping each others secrets, stick up for each others in time of need, as far it is possible, protecting each other for example if someone says bad things about your friend, but also to be able to speak up (respectfully), if something is against your values or if your friend is acting against his or her own values. If you share something with your friend I think the loyal thing to do for the friend would be to acknowledge the value in what you’ve shared and not use it for him or her own benefit (in other words being noble).
I think these verses in The Bible have a nice description of how to act against other people, and will relate this to friendship:
Phil 4: 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Something I think is central in friendships, no matter what, is to be humble and forgiving. To forgive is not the same as saying something is okay or to forget (because that is not humanly possible, at least not without a great deal of time, but it is about accepting that it has happened and lay it behind you. When you do forgive, it is something that is not to be drawn back in conversations over and over again, or to remind of ‘that time when…’ If you have put it behind you, you stop holding it against the person. You will probably be reminded of it time and again; like I said, it takes time to forget. It will also probably keep hurting for a while, which is okay to be honest about, but without bringing up the subject several times.
In friendship there must be room to make mistakes, as we are human, but there also needs to be room for drawing a line around how much we can handle. The forgiveness is not about never drawing any lines. The number one person (after God) you have to be loyal to is yourself. If the friendship compromises you, it is not a healthy friendship, and then it is destructive. Being humble is admitting your faults and asking for forgiveness when you feel you’ve done wrong against a person. If you don’t, there will come a time when it turns back on you. I’m not talking about karma here; I’m talking about what it does to you as a person. You may not notice the changes at first, but eventually you will. It starts with pride, prejudice, and suspicion towards others. Eventually you become strict with yourself, having to make sure no one sees your faults and flaws, which might result in you withdrawing from people and ending up lonely with only a few close people around you. It also might keep you from trusting people.
I have many different types of friendships, where many of the above are not present. It is not as though I have high demands to a friend. But for my closest friends, I need to have higher expectations, and I need for them to agree on the most important keywords I lay in friendship. If I value trust, but my best friend doesn’t, I will keep giving it to this person and the person will hurt me over and over again by not being trustworthy. If I value loyalty and keep being loyal with a best friend who’s not, I will end up feeling worth less. If I keep respecting a friend that doesn’t respect me back I will continually be treated badly and It will make me insecure about myself and undermine my self confidence.
I have a friend that does not respect me and is not loyal to me. I am aware of that, and though I am loyal and I respect this person (back), I keep this friend at arm’s length to protect myself. That way I can keep being friends with this person. The difference is that I don’t expect respect or loyalty in return.
I have a friend who only wants to keep up to date with how I am doing. Not really how I am doing, but more like how is school, how is your child, and those sorts of things. The friend likes me, but probably doesn’t love me, doesn’t really care. I have a friend that I can’t say if anything bothers me, or if the person has crossed the line. If any work in the friendship is needed, I am the one doing the work, ‘cause the friend can’t handle conflicts. I have a friend who can’t respect me when I draw a line, or if I tell that something is stepping over my values. It always ends with me being the bad guy.
The question is: why do I keep being their friend? I have asked myself the question a few times, and I always get the answer: because I care about them. I love them. I love them, even though there are sides of them I don’t like. I can continue being their friend because I won’t let myself get stepped on by them. I can continue being their friend because I know what is missing from our friendship and I know what not to expect. From one I can’t expect the person will keep my secrets. I don’t tell something the world cannot know. One person I can’t share too much of me with, because that friend will take it and pretend it’s his/hers. One friend I have to draw the lines with, but also let the person know what I like about him/her. That way he/she might one day realize that it is not a personal attack when I have to speak up, that I still love the person.
And then there are the great friendships where all my friendship keywords are present. Some of them I have known only a few months and had to choose to let in and trust, and are blessed in the discovery that they are true friends. I have great friendships built over several years where both parts started off carefully, but were interested in getting to know the other one. There is also the great friendship that started off with a huge doubt, carefulness and skepticism, where I learned to take a leap of faith and became blessed with a beautiful, flowering, and close friendship. And then there is the friendship in which we rarely speak, but keep each other up to date, and when we then do meet we are still close friends.
What types of friendships do you have, and what are the keywords of what you value in a friend? Do you agree or disagree with my keywords? Do you think it is worth being friends with someone who don’t meet the keywords you think is important in a friend?