Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trying to Define Friendship

 What is true friendship? There are so many definitions for the word "friend":
-One attached to another by affection or esteem.
-An acquaintance.
-One that is not hostile.
-One that is of the same nation, party or group.
-A favored companion.

And then, for further clarity (or lack thereof) we can define "acquaintance":
-To be acquainted (to know personally; familiar)
-A person whom one knows, but who is not a particularly close friend.

These definitions together create an incredibly vague description in my opinion. According to the 4th definition I've listed, everyone who lives in the US might be considered my friends! Anyone who is not particularly hostile to me, anyone I've ever met, however briefly, could be a friend. 

In trying to define friendship for myself, I realized that I considered most everyone I know to be acquaintances, in the sense of "a person that I know, but who is not truly a friend." This doesn't mean that I was uninterested in friendships with any of these people, but simply that we hadn't yet reached a level of familiarity that I would have considered a true friendship. Perhaps I was looking at it from the wrong perspective.

So what is true friendship? Jesus said "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you." (John 15:12-14)
He laid down His life for us, and He commands us to love one another as He has loved us. If we obey His command, we will be His friends, and friends to each other.

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." - Proverbs 17:17
A true friend will love you through the dark days and the happy times, not just whenever it's convenient for them.

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." - Proverbs 27:6
A true friend will have the courage to lovingly confront you when they see something wrong in your life.

From those verses, I know I need to be a friend to more people than I currently am, but you can be a friend as Jesus commanded without any reciprocation from the other person and I believe a true friendship requires effort from each person. Close friendships, with mutual affection and intimacy, take time and trust, and can't be built without dedication and love from both friends.

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation." -George Washington

So here's to being a friend as Jesus commanded, and hoping for special friendships to grow along the way! And as to a definition, I think this quote from George Eliot most closely describes what I currently think a close friendship is: "Friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words but pouring all right out just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away."

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