Wednesday, 8 January 2014

On Friends...

I've been thinking a lot about friends over the last few months, not continually of  course but quite frequently.  My thoughts have been along the lines of: What makes a good friend? How do you define friendship? How easy is it to make friends? What do you expect from a friend? Do we use the term friend too freely now when perhaps the term  associate is more appropriate - especially with the advent of online groups and social networking sites where we have 'friends' many of whom we may never ever meet in person. How do you decide whether they are really a friend or not?  Are friends mostly made and formed by a certain age?  Is it harder to make good friends as you get older, as many people by their late 30s already have firm friendship groups established.

The Oxford Dictionary states this definition for Friend:


  • 1a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations:she’s a friend of minewe were close friends
  •  (used as a polite form of address or in ironic reference) an acquaintance or a stranger one comes across:my friends, let me introduce myself
  •  (one's friendsarchaic one’s close relatives.
  •  a person who supports a cause, organization, or country by giving financial or other help:the Friends of the Welsh National Opera
  •  a person who is not an enemy or opponent; an ally:she was unsure whether he was friend or foe
  •  a familiar or helpful thing:he settled for that old friend the compensation grant
  •  a contact on a social networking website:all of a sudden you’ve got 50 friends online who need to stay connected

So this tells me a little, but it doesn't really answer my questions any more than I already knew.

Wikipedia has this to say about Friendship:

Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people. Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association. 
Although there are many forms of friendship, some of which may vary from place to place, certain characteristics are present in many types of friendship. Such characteristics include affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, mutual understanding and compassion, enjoyment of each other's company, trust, and the ability to be oneself, express one's feelings, and make mistakes without fear of judgement from the friend.

There are several things I can pick out of this which is exactly how I feel friendship should be, highlighting HONESTY and TRUST but in reality everything in the paragraph that lists the characteristics a friendship should include.

Another website, Reach Out says this about friendships:

Signs of a Good Friend:
Friends will come and go in your life, but more important than how long a friendship lasts, is that a good friend will love you for who you are. The way you can tell the sign of a good friend is by looking at the actions they take –big and small – that show they care.

Some common signs of a good friend include 
  • someone who will support you no matter what
  • someone you can trust and who won’t judge you
  • someone who won’t put you down or deliberately hurt your feelings
  • someone who is kind and has respect for you
  • someone who will love you because they choose to, not because they feel like they should
  • someone whose company you enjoy
  • showing loyalty
  • being trustworthy and willing to tell you the truth, even when it’s hard
  • someone who can laugh when you do
  • someone who is willing to stick around when things get tough
  • someone who makes you smile
  • someone who is there to listen
  • someone who will cry when you cry.
So reading all this and  putting it altogether is exactly what I thought friendship is all about, trust, honesty, support when needed, someone to laugh with, cry with, have good times with and of course much more.  Why is it then that I find it more and more difficult to understand the way 'friends' treat each other.  It seems that so many gossip, say one thing to one person, then something different to another, honesty and integrity seems to have flown out the window with many.  Or perhaps it has always been like this?  True we can't like everyone, and that of course is fine and in these situations the person is clearly not going to be a friend, but why pretend otherwise if this the case?  Is it a case of 'you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours'? 

Is it because we make 'friends' too easily now with the advent of social networking and online groups? Perhaps, but not completely as even those people I meet in person who I come to think of as friends, put my trust in, share my thoughts etc. with, seem to have the capacity to hurt and bewilder and leave me feeling confused as to who my friends actually are.  I am fairly sure it isn't just me that has observed this either. 

Personally I do think it is harder to make friends the older you get, especially in well established circles where friends have been made and forged for many a year.  That is of course one of the problems with moving round and living in different places.  Those that have stayed in one area are going to perhaps have friends who they have known since the year dot and as such it is much harder to join in with those groups and form lasting friendships. You may think you have formed good friendships but they often turn out to be rather superficial. 

Surely honesty, integrity, being true to oneself and friends should be something we all strive for? If you say you are going to do something, offer something etc., surely you should try to honour these things? If you are unable to fulfil/honour something you said you were going to do then you should at least explain, give options and of course apologise.  If I say I am going to do something I try and jolly well do it, even if it takes me a lot longer than my original intentions.  I would hope that others would know this through knowing me and I believe that they do, if they have taken the time to really know me and who I am.  I would certainly never knowingly hurt or upset someone.

So although I already knew the answers, the term 'friend' still seems to elude me in that I have come to the conclusion that I am too trusting and open, I really don't understand people at all, especially those that I have thought of as friends. I now feel much more wary and suddenly I have far less trust than I used to have which I think is actually quite sad.

So I think the term 'acquaintance' is much more apt in many situations rather than 'friend'. Friends should be people who you can trust to be kind and truthful to you and this of course is reciprocated both ways.

Cheeky Robin on alert for anything that might be disturbed in the garden.

Long Tailed Tits visited the garden this morning - only managed to get the one shot of them though.

The first flower for this year - a gorgeous Primrose.


  1. I think there are levels of friendship and different friends maybe provide what we need in certain situations and maybe not in others. It's a lot to ask of another person to be a perfect friend and some of my best friends have let me down at certain times but the test is perhaps that I was able to say to that friend at some later date what I felt and they to explain why they did what they did or said what they said and we agreed to forgive and forget and continue with the friendship perhaps stronger in our bond because they were not perfect. Nor am I a perfect friend and sometimes I feel cross or don't agree with what a friend is or does but that is life and because we are all unique we can never find anyone who will fill all our needs and agree with us on every point the trick is to have other friends so that there will usually be one with whom you feel comfortable in a particular situation. We are all flawed and that is what makes us human but having said that if a "friend" continuously lets us down then maybe that friend wasn't right for us after all and the bond should be allowed to break. I often wonder why it is that some people we meet are close for a while and then disappear from our lives and others are there for the long haul and both kinds of friends meet a need in us. My French friend told me that she didn't know it was possible to make new friends at her age but we are close even though we have only known each other for a few years now but I don't think it matters how old you are it is possible to meet and make new friends although as a fridge magnet one friend sent me years ago says "It takes a long time to grown an old friend"!! But new ones can be good too I say. Sorry I seem to have gone on rather!

    1. Yes Jane I agree with you completely, and I hope I didn't come across as if I expected everyone to be perfect because of course we aren't, what I was trying to say is that there needs to be give and take in any relationship, but also the compassion for respect and forgiveness (which I will talk about more when replying to the comment Floss left) and not purposely going out to hurt someone else for your own wants/need/greed or whatever you might call it. I guess I'm wondering if we call people our friends too easily, before really getting to know them, when they are perhaps mere acquaintances, colleagues or peers. I have observed various things over the last few months that have left me pondering on this subject, much like I pondered as a child when I saw friendship groups seem to be so nasty and hurt each other and I could never understand why. Perhaps a rather simplistic view. However, yes, I have come to the conclusion that if 'friend' continuously lets the other down and trust is lost, then that 'friend' probably isn't right for us after all, just as you say.

  2. Hello (if it's not too presumptious, given the subject) my friend! I've shared some of your thoughts recently. I saw some of my local friends, who were also at least friendly aquaintances themselves, destroy their relationship and to a certain extent their reputations by refusing to back down over a silly spat. They both pride themselves on ' speaking their mind' and I think that this is only a euphemism for not caring if other people get hurt. This is what I meant when I wrote about forgiveness before Christmas. A friend is someone who will forgive me when I fail, and I will forgive them too.

    1. This has always puzzled me as well Floss, and I remember this sort of thing very much as a child, but as adults I guess we kind of expect it to have gone away when in reality it hasn't. To see such silly spats and grudges destroy friendships and people is so sad.

      I've seen my son upset over the Christmas/New Year period as he has been let down by his 'friends' who he was looking very much to seeing when he was home. I think for him, they are jealous and of course jealousy is a whole different subject, but it just added to my thoughts on who and what friendship means. Perhaps my expectations are too high, but I agree with you, friends should never purposely go out to hurt each other, yes they might sometimes, but the capacity to say sorry and forgive is what usually makes the friendship work. As you say a friend is someone who will forgive us when we fail and who we will forgive when they do as well. But do you keep on forgiving when they continue to hurt you through what appears to be their selfish actions?

  3. This is a really interesting reflection on the nature of friendship and very thought provoking. I think we use the term too loosely. As I've got older I seem to ascribe to two theories which are kind of similar. One was from my guiding days as a child and a song that went something like 'make new friends, but keep the old ones, one is silver the other is gold'. The other is a poem I think about people coming into your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime and sometimes there is a timespan when a friendship no longer serves you or one of you outgrows it. Remember too that sometimes we are in other peoples lives for them to learn lessons too and we all have our human frailties and faults.

    I hope whatever has provoked your pondering on the nature and motivations of those around you helps you find answers.

    1. Thank you for your interesting comment and thoughts on this. Sometimes I think it is good to have a bit of a debate and discussion of various subjects, especially ones that can be quite emotive. Yes part of my conclusion is that we DO use the term far too loosely nowadays (have we always I wonder) especially with the advent of having 'friends' on various groups on the internet. It has always puzzled me how we can have instant 'friends' at the press of a button, whom we have never conversed or corresponded with! This is something I tried to highlight to my boys, especially when they were younger and first using the internet and social media sites such as Facebook.

      Yes friends and friendships come and go throughout our lives, some are lasting and some fleeting, but all are for a reason...just sometimes the reasons are hard to fathom, and sometimes we wonder just why we thought that a person was a friend. I subscribe to the saying always try and treat someone how you would like to be treated yourself, and I have to admit to being rather puzzled at the way some people treat their 'friends' lately - would they really want to be treated in that same manner?

  4. You may know from my blog that I'm only in Blogland a bit at the moment because I've been tied up and I'm going away tomorrow. I noticed this post on my Reader and it's a subject which interests me very much indeed. I've made a note of this post though and will return to it.....later or, hopefully, sooner.

  5. Me again! I think you have picked an interesting topic for discussion here and one which would be great to discuss in person one to one or in a small group. I did read somewhere that we can only support a certain number of friends and the idea of having hundreds of friends as on Facebook or other such sites is daft as we need to know a friend and on the web we only know what they are willing to tell us which may or may not be true. I think we are hard wired to read people by their body language and the way they say things and so to know another person requires contact and lots of communication. Having said that I do feel that I have made several friends through blogging and these are like pen pals perhaps - we "speak" by e-mail as well as what we write in comments and some like you yourself we actually meet and then the eye contact, body language and so on can help us to refine our ideas about that blogger. A couple of points which I tried to tell my daughter when her friends upset her for one reason or another are: 1) you need more than one friend so that if one isn't meeting your needs in some respect another may do so and 2) you need to go more than 50% of the way towards a friend as if you both only go half way you will have no overlap as it were and that is where the friendship lies in the overlap. I am sorry to learn your son is being upset and youngsters can be so horrible to each other - it was ever thus of course you only have to read Lord of the Flies to see that! Friends are an essential part of life but we must also be independent too as we are the only constant in our lives.


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