What is friendship? How is it defined? How do we know it when we see it?
I’d like to focus upon what should be obvious aspects of friendship in an attempt to shine light into this strangely obscure genre.
First of all, friendship is an unofficial, mutually beneficial relationship involving at least two parties. Friendships generally start spontaneously or casually and blossom into more as bonds are built and commonalities are discovered. But everything can’t be in common: some of the best friendships grow out of complementary trait alignments.
Second, friendship requires giving and taking on both sides. As long as the exchange maintains some sort of balance, the relationship can continue. Anything too one sided is no longer friendship. There must be flexibility and tolerance, forgiveness and grace extended in both directions.
Third, friendship should be fun. After all, we can always get around people who’s company we don’t enjoy (insert any number of in-law or family reunion jokes here).
Fourth, friendship should be relatively easy. It’s not that a good friendship won’t require some maintenance and uncomfortable moments at times (which can actually serve to tighten bonds of trust and respect), but for the most part, friendships should be a comfortable load in an otherwise strenuous world. We have enough people in our lives with whom we are forced to maintain some sort of relationship; we don’t need our friendships to be sources of strain.
Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, friendships can only exist on a foundation of trust. Many casual relationships carry most of the features above, but when it comes right down to it, the parties can’t actually and fully trust each other. Not so for true friendships. In true friendships, trust is a must.
Let’s review, then, these obvious traits: mutually beneficial, balanced, common, complementary, flexible, tolerant, forgiving, grace-filled, fun, easy, comfortable, and trusting.
What an awesome list and great explanation! We know who are friends are by how we feel when we are around them. They know we are their friends by how they make us feel when we are with them.
Notice, by the way, nothing was said about being always comfortable. Sometimes, friends have to face us with difficult truths. It’s our best and dearest friends, the ones we trust most, who have that right and sacred duty. Only when we trust someone can we allow ourselves to become vulnerable enough to expose those areas in our lives that will allow them to gently walk in and encourage us toward growth.
I know I am honored to have friends like Chris describes. I hope and pray I am that kind of friend to them. And I hope and pray you have such friends, and are such friends to yours, too.