My friend James wrote an interesting blog to which I would like to respond. I think I can inoffensively boil the blog down to two questions: What is a friend and what is their function?
What is a friend? I think that it is important to first understand the word “friend.” Friend is, at its simplest, a label. It is a convenience used to define those with whom we have a special relationship or, in the least, don’t hate. We give the term to those with whom we are, sometimes, only loosely associated, more of an acquaintance. After such initial defining, we have to qualify the term “friend” with best, college, close or some other restrictive word. The odd thing is that there is, at times, a great deal of bleed over between the definitions. For instance, we may have a college friend with whom we have remained very close, thus a best friend. On the flip side, we have college friends, whom we still call friend, that are really nothing more than distant acquaintances. The terms are rather fluid. But they serve some purpose.
Friendship, in my mind, is more about relationship. Celtic Christianity tells us that there are “thin times” and “thick times.” Thin times are when the veil that separates Heaven are Earth is thin, thus, the experience of God is deep, rich and fulfilling. During the thick times, the veil has grown and the separation is greater. In these times, God seems distant, if not all together absent. Relationships are much the same. There are times where the space between friends is thin. Our experience of that other person is rich, rewarding and full. The love we have for that person is so great that it almost seems to burst our heart. At other times, however, that same person is not close and the experience is much more shallow. It doesn’t change the love that exists, but the experience is different, not less important. This occurs naturally and there is nothing intrinsically wrong. In our label defining mind, however, we see this gap as a decline in our “friendship.” The more people you have around you, the greater the flux between them. You are never alone, but the guest list changes. It is all quite natural when you break it down.
This brings me to the next question. What is a friend’s function? This becomes difficult to define when you realize that the closeness of your friends change, but I do think there is a consistent responsibility: love and respect. I am a Libra, charming and balanced. Libra’s have a very endearing personality trait, which I have in excess: we know exactly what others should do in any given situation. I give great advise, and am usually approached for my wisdom and honesty (written with the greatest sarcasm). But it is my responsibility as a “friend” to give this advise? Sometimes. Relationships are about balance. There will be times when a person close to you should step in and offer guidance. If for instance, the person to whom you are currently talking is riddled with issues and drama. However, once the advise is given, there is not much else to do. After that, a friend simply loves and respects their dear one regardless of the decision. If bad consequences come from the decisions, again the friend loves and respects. That is it. It is fairly simple.
I think the difficulty we have is that when we invest our time, energy and love into a person, we take ownership of the other person, sometimes in small ways and other times large. We call them “my friend,” which implies possession. But our friends aren’t really ours. They are islands unto themselves. The tectonic plate shifts of life bring us close and then separate us. When we are close, we love and support each other. If we get moved apart, the relationship only changes in intensity, not quality.
In the end, friendship is about relationship. No one is perfect. We will make mistakes and cross lines. Forgiveness, love and respect are requirements. We have our own paths. We should show gratitude that someone else has chosen to share theirs with us.
Maybe it is time for us to have friendships without expectations.