I have written before on the topic of friendship and the meaning, to me, of what it means to be a “true friend.” I find myself returning to this topic time and time again because it is something that often occupies my mind; especially when there is a break in a relationship with a person whom I believed was my friend but who, for expediency or to preserve their relationships with people in positions of power, ceased communication, abandoned me and at times, have acted hostile or even hateful toward me. No matter the reason, the ending of a relationship with someone you believed was your friend, is painful; more so when no reason or explanation has been offered, leaving you to guess and speculate.
From my perspective, I don’t understand how friendship can be so easily abandoned and tossed aside. Why claim to be someone’s friend if you are not, or if you are willing to end the friendship to advance your own interests or because some other friend expects or demands that you cease your relationship with another friend? Didn’t we leave that type of behavior behind in junior high school? I can hear the 7th grader demanding: “You can’t be friends with so and so because I don’t like them anymore!” Or “I won’t play with you anymore if you are friends with so and so.” Or “You can’t be in my club because you are friends with X.” Sadly, some people I know willingly play these games and easily throw good people aside, people to whom they professed friendship, simply because these good people have relationships with folks their purported “friend” doesn’t like, is upset with or struggling to understand. I find this behavior immature, petty and plain old mean spirited. It is certainly not the behavior of a “true friend” or that of a good person.
I don’t take my friendships lightly and don’t profess to be someone’s friend unless I am willing to do my part to maintain the relationship and to be honest and open with them. I may not always succeed, but this is my intent. And sometimes being open and honest with a friend can be painful. But it is real and genuine. I want my friends to be who they are, fully and completely. I don’t expect us to like the same people or to have the exact same circle of friends. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be disagreements amongst friends or that we share identical opinions on all topics. But when we do disagree, we do so with honesty and integrity and most importantly, respect. We allow each other to view the world through our individual lenses and are free to share and discuss our respective points of view. We value and respect each other’s individuality, unique gifts and talents. To me, these are some of the great gifts that flow from true friendship. I want friends with whom I can be my most authentic and true self. True friendship is to be treasured and valued. It enhances us an individuals and enriches our lives. At least it has mine.
My experiences over the last many months have made me realize that for many people the term “friend” is really just a synonym for the term “acquaintance;” that the words “I am your friend” are used frequently because friendship is socially valued and makes the person using the words feel good about themselves and elevates them in the eyes of their peers. After all, being a “good person” means having a lot of friends. Doesn’t it?
But for my taste, many people throw the word “friend” around too easily. Perhaps they do so to impress others, because it suits them in the moment, or because they think saying they are a friend will get them something. This realization is both painful and discouraging. Maybe I am just operating from a different playbook. Or maybe I am just naïve about friendship.
The good news, for me at least, is that I am blessed with some wonderful “true friends” who are honest and have integrity. Who do more than talk the talk; for whom the words “I am your friend” truly mean something, both in thought and deed. True friendship does not know distance or time. And so, to my “true friends,” thank you. You are amazing and wonderful people and I am blessed to have you in my life. And to those of you who have claimed to be my friend but your words were hollow or borne out of self –interest, thanks, but no thanks. I only have room in my life for true friends.