How is friendship defined? What qualities constitute friendship? Why are there so many books on people skills, and so few on friendship and how to be a good friend?
The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has a long and involved definition, getting into the psychological and sociological aspects. The “Anne” books by Lucy Maud Montgomery define friendship in several ways, the most telling and descriptive being “kindred spirits.” Going back farther, the ancient Greeks used the word “philia,” from which we get Philadelphia, to describe friendships.
I have identified eight essential principles for building and maintaining long-term philia-friendships.
- True friends form around a shared insight, interest, or taste, enjoying the common bond uniting them.
- True friends accept one another, loving each other despite our human imperfections.
- True friends approve of one another, protecting each others’ weaknesses while enhancing each others’ strengths.
- True friends appreciate one another, encouraging, serving, and believing in one another’s gifts and talents.
- True friends listen with empathy, learning the hopes, dreams, fears and struggles of one another.
- True friends celebrate one another’s success, being proud of each other’s accomplishments without a hint of envy.
- True friends are trustworthy, maintaining all confidences shared with unimpeachable honor and self-respect, knowing that gossip separates the best of friends.
- True friends are loyal, respecting and defending one another’s character, reputation, and motives, as far as truth allows, while addressing any issues or concerns between them promptly and privately, ensuring misunderstandings never fester.
Like many of us, I first learned about friendship at home, surrounded by both older and younger siblings. I learned to share, to not hit people and not to say mean things to them. These early lessons were reinforced in my early school years.
I will admit, however, I learned as much in school from the bad examples of my peers as I did from their good ones. Unpopular for reasons I could never (and still don’t) fathom, I learned the painful lessons of how not to treat people, quickly realizing the treatment I did not like receiving was the opposite of what I wanted and needed. I further discerned if I wanted and needed those things, other people must also need and want them. As I practiced these lessons on my friends, I learned to tailor what I did for each individual’s personality and style.
I learned more about friendships from the books I read. I learned of John and Abigail Adams, how they sought to be friends first, making their relationship in marriage a true partnership. They began and ended their letters to one another recalling this aspect of their relationship, and were often heard in public addressing one another as their dearest friend.
What have you learned about friendship? How did you learn it? If one of our shared goals in human relationships is to be and have good friends, what can we do to improve our abilities in this area? I have some thoughts. I welcome yours.