What Is a True Friend?

Commonplace are the following phrases:

  • "Hey, are you friends with me on Facebook yet?"
  • "He's just a friend from back home."
  • "Make any new friends tonight?"
What are the characteristics of a friend as described above? I see an attitude of shallow interest and normality. Sadly, I think this often describes our relationships with many of those we call our friends. We've created this hierarchy of friendships: acquaintances (this now almost feels cold), friends, best friends...

Personally, I've never really been good at making friends. That isn't to say I was lonely, outcast, disliked, or neglected growing up. I haven't suffered in the least for lack of company. I've spent much of my life alone, working on this or that project, enjoying the sights and wonders all around me. All in all, life is and has been wonderful. I get along with people, love to serve and be helpful to those around me, and I enjoying learning and growing from their experiences. To me, however, the intimate title of friend is bestowed upon few. Each of those few add a dimension to me that I try to continue to develop.

Part of the reason true friendship is so lacking these days can be blamed on the social stimulation we tap into as a digital society. We now have the ability to connect with whoever we want whenever we went. Whoever we want means we chose (and limit) the type of people we associate with. Whenever we want means there is potential for selfish motives. When I was growing up, the friends I had were friends of circumstances. We went to the same school or the same church, we lived in the same areas. Because of this, I was forced to adjust to the varying situations and tolerate the strengths and weaknesses of those around me. I never had aspirations to have everyone be like me: my friends and I were a group with each individual bringing in something irreplaceable. I would like to believe that every single one of us benefited from the others.

But when we start choosing our own groups and associations, we often lose the diversity and thus the character that a group could hold. The minute details become more important, the toleration levels go down, and relationships can't run deep because they only require a slight bond when everyone has the same personality traits. The few differences noticed tend to be more annoyances than interests. On top of that, rarely are relationships of this nature one-on-one personal relationships.

Why are true friendships so important? Because they have the potential to uplift and support emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, and creatively. Because they are, in form of families, the basic unit of society. And in my case, I find in my wife my best friend with whom I can stretch to reach any goal.

I do regret the "loss" of friends I've had due to separation and negligence over the years: these are people who I still call friends for several reasons, including the fact that they shaped who I am today (and I hope they would say the same), and that they were an integral part of my activities during that stage of life. I'll always be grateful for those friends even if we are no longer as close as once we were.

I posit that while being friendly with all and serving one another are upright and honourable goals, we should seek to develop lasting friendships over time with those already around us. We don't need to look for friends, but instead need to be a true one.

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