Well, what is a friend? What point does a friend become a friend? Do you know friends from associates?
This is a topic I was evaluating in the past couple weeks and something I was seriously considering just as the conversation topic was initiated. One of those, -oh my, mums the word, but I surely won't let that happen again- moments.
I prescribe to the “choose your friends, don’t let your friends choose you” practice, or at least I try to. I’m a cross between an extroverted introvert and an ambivert, not fully satisfied with either classification, (more on that later). So, I have the potential to have the “crew” if I put a little more effort and the time and attention it takes to maintain one, but I don’t particularly care to have a crew. I’ve never really had one either, ever. My groupings go as far as close friend, a friend or an associate. I can pretty much get along with anyone, but only a few people really know me. Those are the people I consider close friends.
However, a few times, just a few, an error of judgment has caused me to misplace a person. I hold expectations for people based on the way I perceive the friendship due to my actions – the way I treat them, or their mixed actions, the way they treat me, sometimes. In other words, I would think someone is a friend but based on a certain unexpected action, or recurring actions, I have given myself just cause to demote them. Or on the other hand, I thought I was just an associate to someone but they really came through in a caring and loving way, as a friend should, so they get promoted.
I’m learning more and more that the term friend is a wide continuum. Because of this, the word friend gets thrown around loosely. Superficially, everyone is a friend. We’ve added so many different meanings to it and in a major way, detracted from what a friend really is supposed to be, living under a guise of deception, all for what? Securing insecurites? Please.
For example, sometimes I will see a "crew" (friend-pair or group) and I’m curious to know how they became friends. Are all of them really friends or were they really close in the past so now out of obligation they tolerate each other, and a host of other questions when it just doesn’t seem right. Is it just for show? Do you really know what that person is going through? This just seems too surface for me.
And thanks to social networking we have given more leeway to the term friend. “We’re friends on facebook,” does not automatically translate to we are friends in reality.
What if we compartmentalized our friends in the following manner:
- Friend that sticks closer than a brother – well, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and if you're married, maybe your spouse as a far second and/or if you're the type of person to have a "best" friend, then your best friend. Sidebar: if you are married, I would like to think your spouse is your best friend.
- Family-friends – friendships formed within your family – siblings, cousins, parents, children, in-laws etc.
- Friends of the family– friends you’ve grown up with; your families are friends, you mark birthdays together and attend each others' graduations, these are the default people always on the guest list, they do not need an invitation. You carry yourselves out to the public as relatives because you're that close.
- All around Friends – Friends that you have depth with, understanding, history, trust, communication, love. You may have even had a disagreement a few times but you were able to move past the disagreement in value of the friendship. (Granted, an individual falling into any of the above 3 categories could very well fit in this category). You can call them anytime and talk to them about anything. They know you inside and out. You are free with them and they also hold you accountable. You have some similarities but it does not mean you are carbon copies.
- Friends for specific purposes - These are friends that you would only call for specific reasons as opposed to anytime or for anything. These may also include the friends that are friends by title and not in deed fully. Or they used to be all around friends, but they got demoted when you noticed they only call you when they need something.
- Pen Pal friends – These are friends you have made connections with from living in different parts of the world and now your main form of communication, primarily due to your relocation and distance, is random infrequent texts, an email here and there, skype once in a while or form of regular or irregular cyber communication. This includes liking all or most of their facebook activity and the like. Perhaps, they used to be all around friends but because of the ease of mobile phone usage and your lack of using it, they are no longer classified as All around friends- they've been demoted, replaced - eek. But both parties are okay with this or too busy to notice.
- Cyber friends – Your relationship apart from 1 or 2 meetings by happenstance, or mutual friends is strictly over the internet, facebook, twitter, etc. Once in a while you reach out to them over the world wide web but your conversation is surface level. These friends may also have been in another group higher up at one period in your life, but lack of effort to maintain the friendship has placed the friendship in this category.
- Associates – you have mutual friends from (common gathering ie. church) and you’re cordial in public, but that’s about as far as it goes, there is no relationship behind closed doors.
Well back to the demotion; this can detrimental when done out of emotion. I know in the past, I have created my own reasons for a person's actions instead of communicating with the person to understand why they did something. For example, I'm like this happened again, [insert my reason here], well obviously they were not listening the first time, (if they were worthy of a first time). Not much seventy times seven going on there. Or I've “let it go” but still harbor offense in my heart; the bait of Satan. So in turn the issue is still there and I've single-handedly changed the dynamics of the friendship, causing avoidable strife in the Body and the other person may not even have a clue, even though I think they should, because from my perspective it was so blatant (so bogus).
There’s a lot of expectation but not enough communication. –Nosa Osai
I am writing this not to say that I am merely reevaluating relationships, although I am. But more so as a reminder for me to focus on the person's qualities and the foundation of the friendship, instead of separating and magnifying the issue or action that has caused discontent. Humans will disappoint you, it is inevitable, since I'm human I cannot fault another for this.
Along with this, I am learning not to lean on my own understanding when analyzing another person's actions, especially when I do not understand how a "friend" could do that. I've noticed, when I lean on my own understanding without giving them a chance to explain themselves, I am attempting to protect my future interests -that being "self." Instead, I need to initiate communication on the issue, if I truly value them as a friend. Friends should prayerfully, constructively hash and settle their issues together, if they truly value the friendship; it's a two way street.
Furthermore, I write this as a challenge to myself to be a better a friend. :) "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." Matthew 7:12.
What is the best vitamin for maintaining a healthy friendship?