The other day, while having a chat over coffee with a friend, we ended up in a discussion about friendship.
The friend, from here on out, will be referred to as Judy to protect her identity.
Judy confided in me that for the last year or so, she has been struggling with her feelings about a particular friendship of hers that has undergone some change.
Before sharing her story about this struggle, she asked me to give her what I would deem my definition of a friend. Easy task, I thought. I’ve had an abundance of them over the years and said the following:
“A friend is someone you trust, adore, look up to, believe in, laugh with, cry with, support, feel affection for and who is not related to you”.
Judy seemed content with my definition but then asked me what I would consider to be my expectations of friendship. So I thought about all the things I felt made me a good friend.
I do my very best to be there for them when needed.
And I always listen.
And I listen well.
I shared this with Judy and she smiled. She then asked me if I had friends who were all of the things I listed about myself. I thought about it quickly and just as I was about to respond yes, I stopped.
I have friends. Definitely, I do but do they match all the qualities I listed about myself as friend? Um, honestly, the answer is no with the exception of one friend who comes pretty darn close but that’s because we’ve known each other since we were five. My other friends fulfill some of the qualities on my list but not all.
Judy went on to say that her struggle with a particular friendship stems from the disappointment she feels when her friend doesn’t fulfill her own list of expectations for friendship. If a friend isn’t to Judy what Judy feels she is to her friend, she harbours feelings of doubt and disappointment in them which then leads her to question the friend’s loyalty.
I thought about this for a second and then realized how very easily this can happen in any relationship. How as people we set ourselves up for disappointment because perhaps we expect people to be like us and when they don’t reciprocate friendship in the same way, we doubt their loyalty.
Judy’s definition of a good friend lists 20 things.
My definition listed out 13.
An other person may only have 5 on their list.
And so on, and so on.
When it comes right down to it, everyone has their own ideas about friendship and all that it entails. It may or may not match our own.
The on-line Oxford dictionary defines friend as a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.
A pretty simple definition.
To me, a friend is so much more than that.
To Judy, friendship is so much more than even what I expressed above.
Which leads me to the realization that sometimes I, too, feel disappointment when a friend may not be for me what I think I am for them. Just because I would re-arrange my schedule to spend time with a friend doesn’t mean that they would do the same. Does this mean they like me or value me any less than I do them? Not necessarily … but … it’s not uncommon to feel this is the case.
I learned a lot about my own feelings and expectations for friendship via my little chat with Judy the other day. She made me think about relationships in a way I hadn’t before.
Everyone hears what you say.
Friends listen to what you say.
Best friends listen to what you don’t say. – Anonymous
I think true friendship isn’t being inseparable, it’s being separated and nothing changes. However, the moment a person shares their time with you, they have shared a part of their life with you. And this is what makes friendship special to me.
We all need friends but maybe some of us need them more than others.
Do you expect your friends to be the kind of friend you know you are?