When I was young, I thought I knew what friendship was. Then I went to live in Germany, and realized that Germans (and presumably every country) have a different view of what friendship is. Recently, I read this comment from Diggy’s 10 Golden Rules for Being a True Friend and the extremely simple answer to What is Friendship came to me – love it!
Friendship is sharing truths, now.
Friendship can be deep or shallow, long or short because friendship is about your reality now and a sharing of common beliefs within that context. Here is my definition which I believe will stand up as a universal principal covering friendship from acquaintance through to love. Understanding it will help you, find, build and support friendships in any situation.
This is as distilled as I could get it. To put it another way, friendship is the common understanding about the important things and truth relating to the current situation whatever that may be. Friendship ignites where people share united beliefs, views or outlook around what they hold as most dear right now. ’Now’ is important because it sets the context and explains why friendships change over time or even day to day depending on the situation. I have used ‘truth’ to represent view, outlook, beliefs or even common goals.
Friendship ranges from acquaintance through comradeship, friendship to love. These are just different grades with a wider or narrower context for the relationship. The important thing is the common shared understanding which is at the root of any relationship.
With the above understanding, it is quite possible for people to become instant friends (love at first sight) following a chance meeting and realization that they share a similar outlook. Similarly, it is quite possible for friendship to be formed through common experience which aligns people’s view of important aspects of life.
Friendship will grow the fastest when pursuing a common goal because the common pursuit and common experience form such a solid foundation. The goal itself is irrelevant provided it is shared because at the end of the day, people want happiness so having fun killing time together is as good for a friendship as saving the world. This is shown where deep friendships are formed equally in misspent youth as in war.
This common, shared view, belief, purpose or goal is critically important to a friendship and if this is missing or lost then eventually, the friendship will diminish. We all change over our lifetimes and this is a key reason why friendships change too. In the end, it may lead to the breakup of a partnership or reduce a really good friendship to the occasional dinner reminiscing over old times. There is nothing really wrong with this except where your purpose and ‘truth’ actually remains aligned. If you haven’t put in the effort to maintain your friendship through the barrage of daily happening and stresses, then it is a lost opportunity for a lifelong friendship. As S.E. Hinton put it so nicely
If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.
Friendship is as much about who you are as who your friend is and what they value. It is also about clarity (part of truth). If you are clear in thought and action, then you will be living your truth and this will be obvious to those around you. Understanding that friendship is sharing truths now also gives hope because there are inevitably people who view the important things in life the same way as you do who will want to join you in action. That’s where friendships thrive.