Friendship is a connection between people. We come in contact with so many people in our life but few of them will become our friends. Some people have many friends, some have few friends. An average person is estimated to have 2-5 close friends in which they can confide in, as well as up to 50 people which one can know fairly well and interact with on a semi-regular basis. According to the World English Dictionary ‘friendship’ is defined as: “a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty.”
We are human beings and we form relationship right from the moment of our birth. We build our first relationships with parents, siblings and family. As we move outside our home, we have friends, teachers and neighbours. As we get older, we have our partners and associates.
We require friends to experience our need for love, companionship and belongingness. They share our hopes and dreams, assure us safety and protection and satisfy our physical as well we emotional needs.
Friendship is one of the most valuable commodities of life. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to me when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.” In the words of Sydney Smith, “Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love and to be loved is the greatest happiness of existence.”
Jim and Oliver were thick friends. One day Oliver challenged the king for his wicked deeds. And so Oliver was arrested and was threatened with death if he refused to take back his words. Upon reaching the prison, Jim asked Oliver if he needed any help. Oliver said, “I am prepared to die; but before that I would like to see my mother and sister.” Jim went and begged the king to give permission, while he took Oliver’s place in the prison.
When Oliver delayed his return, the king said to Jim, “Where is your friend now? You should learn not to trust anyone. Now you’ll die for your foolishness.” Jim replied, “My Lord, if my friend does not come on time, I shall be happy to die in his place.” It was just then that his friend came running to the prison saying, “Thank God, I am not too late. Many things came on my way. Thanks, Jim, for letting me see my home and people again.”
The king, who was watching this, was moved. “If I had more people like you in the kingdom I would not have to be so strict. You are free to go. I have a lot of power and great riches, but I would gladly give my crown and my wealth for one true friend.”
George Herbert says, “The best mirror is an old friend.” When you look at your true friends you will uncover who you are. You will see a reflection of your soul and will in turn become educated in the pathway you follow. You will see your world before you and will see without any doubts the truth of your way. You see true friends are simply yourself in disguise. By uncovering that disguise you see before your eyes the world you created and the being you have become.
A matrix for friendship is any place or situation where things are happening and people can meet. It might be a hotel, a factory, a club, a home, a school, a place of worship, a hospital or even a jail. Friendly people can be met at any bus-station, market or train. And casual friendships may develop between any two individuals belonging to the same or different teams, classes, parties, clubs, organizations, religions etc.
In a good friendship, there is open Communication, mutual respect, honesty, trust, loyalty, fairness and equality. Friendship may become sour if there is poor communication, unresolved conflicts, insufficient amount of time together, emotional, or physical abuse.
Once there were two friends named Sonu and Monu. While they were walking through the jungle, they heard the growl of a wild bear. Sonu immediately ran and climbed up a nearby tree. Monu, feeling helpless, lay down on the ground, pretending to be dead. The bear came to him and sniffed his nose. Taking him for dead, it left him there and walked away. Finding the bear gone, Sonu came down from the tree and asked Monu, “What did the bear say to you, while you were lying on the ground?” “He advised me,” replied Monu, “never trust a friend who deserts you in times of danger.”
A genuine friendship does not develop all of a sudden, nor does it happen by chance. Friendship often is the result of a choice. One can choose to have casual, close or intimate friends. One can choose whether or not to enter into a situation where a friendship might be born. One can choose to give it life and growth, or even to let it die.
Friendship thrives on presence. Friends need to be together. Being physically present is the most satisfying way of being together. When that is not possible, one must find other ways of expressing presence. The most common of these are phone calls, letters and gifts.
Confidentiality is keeping another’s secret. It is part of what some describe as trust. Friends expect their partner to be discreet and not to reveal publicly what they have heard as private information. Loyalty sometimes involves even fighting for a friend, standing up for one when things get tough. “A friend,” according to Walter Winchell “is one who walks in when others walk out.”
Understanding and empathy help to deepen friendships. Understanding has to do with knowing and empathy with feeling. Clear communication ‘is’ very necessary for understanding. It implies that one expresses his/her needs, feelings and wishes as accurately as possible and the other listens. According to John Powell, “a relationship will only be as good as its communication.” Empathy implies the ability to enter into another’s feelings.
True friendship is based on mutual respect and admiration. True friends are people who have the good of each other at heart and act accordingly. Good deeds come back to us in the form of good friends. There is lasting goodness on both sides. It is based on character and commitment.
However, Friendship is not smiles and roses all the way. It will be threatened by various types of stresses all along its period of existence. Unless friends learn to cope with them, their friendship may suffer a heart breaking death. Many difficulties arise in friendship because one or both friends will not speak openly about certain personal concerns, as for example, personal physical illness, fear of losing a job or anxiety about a child. Some find it difficult even to share personal good news.
Some people expect too much from their friends. However much they may receive from them, they are never satisfied. They expect their friends always to remember, always to be in a giving mood, to prefer their company to that of others, to always understand and be empathetic and never to hurt or make mistakes. Such expectations are impossible to fulfil and can stretch a friendship to breaking point.
Jealousy can destroy a friendship quite easily. Jealousy is expressed in one friend acting overly solicitous or domineering over another. Jealous people try to bind their friends; they are like masters who keep their slaves in chains. Psychologists say that the best way to elicit loyalty is to give the other the freedom to expand to grow.
Friendship may dissolve naturally when the parties find new interests and go different ways. At times, friendship needs to be pulled up forcibly by the roots if it becomes destructive, when one friend displays a sense of superiority, treats the other as a slave, habitually criticizes, disparages, oppresses, punishes and demeans the other.
I am listing some ways of becoming a great friend.
- Permit your friends to be themselves. Accept them as they are. Be grateful for what is there, not annoyed by what friends can’t give. Accept each one’s imperfections — and individuality — and don’t feel threatened if their opinions and tastes sometimes differ from yours.
- Give each other space. We are entitled to our private feelings and thoughts. Friends who try to invade the inner space of one another risk destroying the relationship.
- Be ready to give and to receive. Be eager to help and able to ask for help as well. But don’t be over-demanding or let yourself be used.
- Make your advice constructive. When a friend needs to talk, listen without interruption. If advice is asked for, be positive and supportive.
- Be loyal. Loyalty is faithfulness. It means “being with” your friend in bad times as well as good. It means honouring confidence. It means neither disparaging a friend in his absence nor allowing others to do so.
- Be honest. Open communication is of the essence of friendship. Express your feelings, good and bad, instead of bottling up your anger or anxiety. Clearing the air helps a relationship grow. But be aware of what is better left unsaid.
- Give praise and encouragement. Tell your friends what you like about them, how thankful you are for their presence in your life. Delight in their talents, applaud their success.
- Treat friends as equals. In true friendships, there is no Number One, no room for showing off how smart and successful you are, for envy, for feeling superior or inferior.
- Trust your friends. We live in a messy, imperfect world made of imperfect people. Trust can be betrayed, but it is essential to friendship. Make the effort to believe in the intrinsic goodness of your friends.
- Be willing to risk – One of the obstacles to a close relationship is the fear of rejection and hurt. We don’t want to reveal our vulnerability. But unless we dare to love others, we condemn ourselves to a sterile life.