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 friends) archaic 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
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.