How do you define “friendship”? For you, what makes a good friend? What do you do to be a good friend?
I’ve been considering these thoughts lately. I’ve also been trying to read and study on the topic. However, I’ve been dismayed to discover books on the subject are extraordinarily lacking! While we can use much of what is mentioned in books on basic people skills, it seems like almost no one has written much of anything on friendship itself.
I wonder why? Could it be because friendship is so hard to quantify or define? Or is it that the qualities which make up a good friendship, like other things, was just so well understood by previous generations they saw no need to write about it? They just understood it and lived it and taught their children by living it in front of them.
A notable friendship in history is that of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The literary world is greater and vastly broader due to the deep friendship between these two Oxford Dons! It was the encouragement and support of Lewis through the Inklings club that led to Tolkien writing and publishing his stories which became the wildly popular The Hobbit and the trilogy (and follow-up books for) The Lord of the Rings. Their contributions might have been even greater together, save for a misunderstanding which led to a miscommunication, which eventually resulted in an estrangement.
Some of the things which the friendship of Lewis and Tolkien shows are:
- friends are there for you and support you
- friends love you where you are at
- friends encourage you to be more than what you currently are
I was thinking about friendship because of something that happened a while ago. I was upset and unhappy about some things going on in my life. (I won’t bore you with the details.) On my lunch break at work, I used my office line and called my best friend Cindy, and told her my troubles. She listened and advised, but we were both realizing she seemed to be unable to break me out of my “blue funk.”
A call on my cell phone from a family member interrupted us. The family member was reporting on some trivia I couldn’t handle from work, and I asked them to deal with since they were there. I finished that call and went back to my call with Cindy, who had heard my end of the conversation. I told her what it was about. She reminded me of a funny story of when we were newlyweds together, dealing with stuff for the first time as adults on our own. She related it exactly to the frustrating call from my family member. Using the story and the memory, Cindy was able to give me a hilarious mental picture to replace the one frustrating me, and a good laugh to top it off. The laughter gave me needed perspective on the things that had been troubling me, and she was then able to help me reframe the things that had been bothering me when I first called. I ended the call in a much better mood, with ideas to solve my problems.
Friends are there for you and support you: Cindy was there for me and supported me. She was having a tough day herself, but took time out to listen, counsel and make me laugh. Her presence on the phone, while I was having a problem, was part of my solution.
In another example of support, after my mother died, our friends Tony and Pat drove 1 1/2 hours from their Utica, NY home to our Albany, NY area for Mom’s 4:00 pm wake. They met my whole family and stayed until almost 5:00. Then they drove back past Utica and on to Syracuse, NY, a 3-hour drive, where they were scheduled to speak at an event, and arrived on time. Now that’s what I call being there and supporting a friend!
Friends love you where you are at: Cindy knew I wasn’t thinking right when I called after about the first few sentences. But she didn’t work on the errors of my thinking or suggesting any behavioral changes until she helped me out of the “blue funk.” Instead, she listened and loved me where I was at, “blue funk” and all.
Friends encourage you to be more than what you currently are: After she had me laughing, Cindy was finally able to encourage me to think differently about things and to suggest different things I could do about the situations that were troubling me. We brainstormed together and came up with some possible answers. I later tried to put them into practice. I was also able to come up with more on my own because Cindy had given me the reinforcement that I was able to find better solutions.
These aspects of friendship are by no means the entire list! I could talk about how friends make you laugh, or cry with you. I can mention friends correct, counsel and advise you. I could outline different types or levels of friendships, from casual to intimate. Perhaps, that’s another reason why a definitive book (or 3) on friendship has yet to be written. There’s just so much to say!
Please join me in the conversation, and say something about it in the comments. (I might even edit the post to include it!)