The Fine Art of Friendship
Some just don't know how to be a friend.
No, really. I know it may come as a surprise to some, but I know quite a few people that just don't have the whole 'friendship' thing down. It always leaves me baffled, no matter how many times I see it.
I strive to be a good friend, a loyal friend, a friend that is valued and trusted for the important things. I want to be there when people are hurting, I want to be honest and trustworthy...sought out for companionship. In my humble view, I would think most would want to be this way. Apparently, this is not the case. What usually ends up happening is that I pour much more care, effort, consideration, time and love into the relationship than what 'the friend' is willing to return. Does this happen to you, too?
I know, everyone has their limits;
"I'm willing to be a friend, but only so far."
"Yeah, we're friends...as long as it's fun."
"I'm only her friend as long as she agrees with me."
"I can only be a true friend to my spouse."
OK, so now I'm on a rant, I suppose. Why can't some just be honest? Why are they so bound and refuse to allow emotions and love to flow between themselves and someone else? Why???? Are we not supposed to love one another? I am fully aware that there are different levels of friendship, and not all are the same. I'll give you that, but why limit yourself to just one or two close friends?
So, what happens is that I care for this person, or that one over there, way more than they would ever care for me. Do I sound like a martyr? That is not my intent, but I just need to say it to be OK with it.
I admit I have pretty high standards when it comes to friendship. Actually, I have stood on this soapbox before; perhaps I'm just striving to be friends with those that have lower standards of friendship than I do. Or maybe they just don't think they need friendship on that level, or that it is not important. (I disagree, obviously.)
In my pondering friendship, I tried to come up with some definitions of various types of friendship:
The Casual AcquaintancePerhaps the level of friendship a person offers is relative to their maturity and acceptance of themselves. I concede that while one may be smart, witty and appear self-confident, that may be all just a front, a good act. Whenever someone starts to get too close, the walls come up and the protections are in place to prevent vulnerabilities. Maybe some may think that others are trying to gain something (status, favors) from them under the guise of friendship. To be honest, this just makes me sad...for all involved.
This is the person that you recognize passing in the office hallway or grocery store aisle, exchanging a few small-talk conversations occasionally. Maybe your children are friends and you have made the effort of getting to know them a bit, or they always sit behind you in church. You may know a bit about them, but really it's just surface; nothing intimate or deep.
The Internet Buddy
This is the person you interact with on the internet via social utilities such as Facebook or MySpace or on various forums or chatrooms. You really don't even know what they sound like on a lot of occasions, but enjoy exchanging opinions, photos and pithy comments with each other. They sometimes live so far away that you will never meet them in person. This virtual friendship is enjoyable and entertaining without a lot of investment or risk.
The Sometimes Friend
This is a person you see and interact with a good amount of time on a regular basis. You may work with them regularly and have had some personal conversations or situations that required compromise or emotion. You share a lot of the same values, passions and history. However, there is an aloofness about the relationship for whatever reason (personal boundaries, disrespect, fear, etc.) You could have great, rather intimate interactions with this friend one time, and then other times get the cold shoulder - there is a definite lack of consistency with this type of friend, depending on the situation, their mood or who may be present.
This type of friend could also be called The Convenient Friend; the one who is your friend when there isn't someone better to 'be' with in a given situation.
There is great risk of being hurt with this type of friend, due to the inconsistency and apparent lack of loyalty.
The True Friend
I've blogged on this before, What Does it take to be a Friend
The Close Friend (aka The Best Friend)
This friendship is one that requires nurturing and care to foster. An extension of the The True Friend, this is someone who has taken the extra time and effort to be available, both emotionally and physically. Always supportive and honest, more than willing to invest a lot of time and love to the relationship. A gift indeed, to have a close or best friend is rare and to be treasured. (It is my opinion that a lot of marriages fall into this category.)
The Soul Mate
To call this person a friend is almost a disservice; this person was put in your life for a purpose, making you complete. They compliment your weaknesses and challenge you in ways you could never imagine for your good. Their love for you is undisputed and trust flows easily between the two of you. Usually reserved for the description of married couples, this can also be applied to friends of the same gender.
What a waste. I don't understand it, but I'm trying. I guess I'm just willing to put myself out there, to offer and give something that will never be returned. Is this the heart of self-sacrifice? Why is it easier for some to have this mindset than others? We all have hurt, baggage from past bruising; but can we get past them to embrace new friendships, deep friendships?
For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.