“Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over”. Octavia Butler
Friendship is such a fragile relationship and quite difficult to develop in today’s high tech, disposable world. We tend to be more high-tech than high- touch. We are often far too busy to have time for friendships and even less to maintain them. And it’s often hard to know who to trust; we don’t want to open up to just anyone. Often it is much easier to maintain relationships at a surface level that doesn’t require too much of an effort either in time or emotional energy. There are several reasons why friendship, that is to say, truly lasting friendships are hard to come by.
I wanted to explore friendship through two books that deal with the subject from different perspectives. One is Grown-up girlfriends, by authors Erin Smalley and Carrie Oliver. The second is Resolved -13 Resolutions for Life by Orrin Woodward. In the first book, the authors discuss various aspects of friendships such as boundaries, communication, conflict, and forgiveness as well as destructive friendships and letting go of friendships. One of the chapters focuses on understanding where friendships fit in terms of their depth or level of intimacy.
“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.”
Three Levels of Friendship
The book, Grown-up Girlfriends, outlines three baskets of friendship or levels of intimacy to evaluate how our friends fit into our life. The authors do not intend for this to be a sorting or triage system, but instead to be a way of understanding the nature of each of our relationships. Essentially it is looking at circles of friendship from the outer circle to the inner circle. Bear in mind, these baskets and their contents can shift as friendships grow, develop, change, deepen or even terminate. All relationships have a lifespan and all require investment and meeting of needs.
Basket #3 Acquaintances
These friends may start off as just a casual interaction such as greeting the person who serves you coffee at the coffee shop each day. You come to know her because you see her every day and you develop a bond based on this interaction. It may also be the person in the grocery store employee that you see week after week. These are friendly regular, but casual friendships. They may come to know you and what you like, such as how you like your coffee or what kinds of products you prefer to buy.
Basket #2 Good Friends or Companions
With these friends in this “basket”, you share common interests and maybe similar viewpoints or values and beliefs. This friendship leaves the scope of the casual interaction seen in the third basket. with these friends, you might go out for coffee or do a sport together based on a shared enthusiasm for that sport. There is definitely a defined reason for this friendship and the bond may last for a certain time and then dissolve or it may develop into a long-term friendship.
Basket # 1 Friends Who Know Everything About You
This basket is your inner circle and is usually very small. These friends not only know your hopes and dreams and share feelings with you, but they also have the permission and freedom to know the good, the bad and the ugly. They know you well. With these friends, we open up more to share our deeper concerns such as our fears and our failures. There is also the freedom to speak the truth and be honest with one another, even if it hurts.
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
– Winnie the Pooh
Friendship: A Deeper Level
In the book Resolved- 13 Resolutions for Life (Chapter 7), the author discusses 8 Principles of true friendship or basket number 1, according to Grown-Up Girlfriends. This chapter is one of 13 Chapters modeled off the 13 Resolutions of Benjamin Franklin. Here are the eight principles:
True Friends Form around Shared Insights
These friendships go from a level of companionship to a deeper level in which there are love and respect between them. It is a much deeper bond than simply sharing opinions and thoughts over coffee. This not what Aristotle called the two counterfeit friendships, one based on utility (what can you do for me?) and the other based on pleasure or fun (golfing buddies). This friendship has belief and trust.
True Friends Accept One Another
This approval means overlooking the other person’s weaknesses and shortcomings and accepting him or her just the way they are and valuing them. This level of friendship loves anyway regardless of mistakes, and faults and allows space and freedom for the other person to grow. It is supportive.
True Friends Approve of One Another
Where acceptance means just aking a person as they are, approval goes a step further by giving what the author calls “relationship oxygen”. This fresh air gives a person the freedom to breathe, be himself and open up. Approving means taking the step to allow yourself to be genuinely impressed by the other person and take an interest in what they do or like. It is showing a level of admiration especially traits or abilities that might not be noticed by others.
True Friends Appreciate One Another
Appreciation builds on both acceptance and approval to where the value of the person is highlighted and his uniqueness is communicated to him by way of pointing out all the positive things about him. The focus is on building the person up in a positive way personally and in the presence of others. When we appreciate another person, we are also challenging and encouraging them to grow, to become even a better version of themselves.
True Friends Listen with Empathy
The author points out that it is through listening that we can show acceptance, approval, and appreciation. Listening gives us an opportunity to learn more about another person, to learn about what makes them tick, what brings him joy, what frightens him and what hopes and dreams he may have. Empathetic listening is really listening to be able to share in the other person’s experience. It gives the other person a safe space to open up.
True Friends Celebrate One Another’s Success
When we celebrate another’s successes and victories we are happy for them. We are their cheerleaders. We can celebrate with them, admire their achievements without becoming envious of them. True friends do not get caught up in petty jealousy or in begrudging another person for what they have received or achieved. True friends share dreams, hopes as well as struggles and losses. They are in for the good, the bad and the ugly. They are on the mountain tops together and in the trenches.
True Friends Are Trustworthy
Trust comes from being authentic and supportive. It is the practice of maintaining confidence and having one another’s back. Trusts allow both people in friendship to open up about more personal things that they might not otherwise feel comfortable sharing. And trust means not betraying the confidence of the other. It means having their back, but not going behind their backs to gossip or speak badly of them.
True Friends Are Loyal
Loyalty means trustworthiness in the friend’s presence and away from their presence. It stands up for their character, honor, and reputation where it is required, but it doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with them on all accounts and when they are clearly in the wrong. A loyal friend will address problems and concerns privately and stand by them as a person publicly. And a loyal friend does not jump ship when the going gets tough or when stuff hits the fan. A loyal friend is a stormy weather friend, not just a fairweather friend.
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Diana Lynne enjoys travel, self-improvement, pursuing a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca