One of the greatest joys in the world is called friendship. If you Google friendship, the first thing you read about it goes something like this, ‘Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people. Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association. Friendship has been studied in academic fields such as communication, sociology, social psychology, anthropology, and philosophy’.
Meaning, we must actually understand this phenomenon that has been studied by so many disciplines. Modern education has excluded a few essentials of life from its curriculum; hence, it is upon us now to make sense of it individually. I prefer it this way, it allows me to make my own definition of qualities that cannot be tangible.
My father once told me a deep truth about values. He explained that values are those aspects of life that do not have a definite form, yet, they are palpable. Honesty, modesty, friendship, equality, etc. cannot be bought at a store, they are felt, and they have a meaning that resonates with us. If I define friendship as a bond of mutual trust then that is what friendship is to me. If someone else defines it as unconditional acceptance then that is the true meaning of friendship to them.
This is probably why our friends are capable of hurting us. We define their presence in our life by our understanding of friendship, if they do not comply with that ideal, then it disappoints us. We feel misunderstood and sometimes betrayed even. Why do our friends do that? Is it because the person we spent so much time of our life with has suddenly turned against us? Is it because they don’t like us anymore? Or is it because we expected them to understand what hurts us and assumed that they will not do it?
Expectations are the root cause of disappointments I was told. When I expect something out of a friend without ever asking for it then I am bound to feel disappointed. None of us is a mind reader, we don’t sometimes understand what is told to us in clear language – Many factors are at play during that time; what we say about our feelings to our friend may not be thoroughly comprehended.
The language of friendship is not words but meanings. – Henry David Thoreau
Being human is not simple, we are a complex and dynamic species. Innumerable factors in the universe affect our every decision through our sensory perceptions. If right now the oxygen level in my room drops, my life comes to an end, no matter how healthy my body is.
When I was a flight attendant, I was informed that the sense of taste suffers due to the oxygen level in the plane. So if a passenger complains about the food, empathise with them, their perception of taste is suffering and that’s why they feel upset.
So you see? A lot can be misunderstood if we don’t mindfully understand it.
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
This quote by Lucius Annaeus Seneca defines the core of friendship. We all are aware that we are born alone, and we live and die alone. Our identity or soul is just as unique as our fingerprint. So to be understood for our distinctness is the sole purpose of friendship. It is curious then that our society seems to expect conformity even in friendship.
I am a woman of 27 glorious years. I have had a number of great friendships in my relatively short life. And one thing I learnt about friendship is that it is as unique as I am, as unique as my friend is. No set of rules apply to friendship, the two people involved will figure their own definition out.
When we honestly ask ourselves if all our friends mean the same to us, we will clearly see that there are a few among them that are especially close to us. And among them still, we will find eccentrics. Some friends are transitory, the kind we meet on our travels perhaps, some last a lifetime, the ones we grow up with; and then there are some that know us better than us, I call them – The one that actually gives a fuck!
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A few years ago in Bali, while I was on my first solo trip, I met a group of young men outside a convenience store. Without hesitation, I joined in their merrymaking and observed how well they could all take a joke. When I introduced myself, they all took turns to introduce not themselves but each other with a description of their shortcomings. I was surprised that not one of them took offence to that description, they confirmed them instead.
I expressed the joy I felt in witnessing such a beautiful friendship. They were extremely modest about it and insisted that it isn’t special at all; friendship is about acceptance without conditions, that we love each other as much for our perfections as we do for the imperfections.
I admit gentle Reader that I felt jealous.
I failed to recollect even one friend of mine that I have accepted so dearly. There were conditions to my friendship. They should have a job, a normal life and similar interests. One of the boys observed that I have become rather silent and awoke me from my soliloquy. He asked, “Have you any friends? – The innocence of this question rattled me and I defiantly said, “Yes”. He smiled and asked, “Have you any money?” – This one flat out stumped me and I replied rather nervously, “I would like to think so.”
He then calmly explained, “If you have money then you have no friends. Only when you need something is when you ask for help, if you have money then you buy that help, if you have none then you make a friend.” He spoke very sincerely and I could not refute his words. They made a lot of sense and I related to them deeply.
So I actively became friends with them and told them about my flaws too, they laughed at them just the same and assured me that I wasn’t crazy for being different, I was, in fact, interesting because of my flaws. I observed the uniqueness of their interaction with enthusiasm and tried to learn their idiosyncrasies.
The inference I drew allowed me to make my own definition of friendship. Now friendship to me means an honest bond I carve with another entity in order to experience another life for what it is and not what it ought to be. I merely accept them for who they are or at least try my best to.
I now fully realise the potential of great friendship. If I have one individual in my life who listens to what I have to say and responds to my interpretation with their own, for the sake of sharing their experience with me then I have the greatest of all treasures. And like every treasure worth having, we have to look for it.