Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What Does It Mean To Be A Friend?

What is a friend? This definition seems good to me and describes a beloved few in my life:

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." - Anais Nin

I am what you could call selectively social. That is, in my private life, I have a few, intense, long-time friends rather than a vast collective of "networks". Some formative experiences caused me to be rather slow to trust and so, even people who consider me their friend often don't know a good part of who I am for a very long time, if ever.

Thankfully, I've been fortunate enough to accumulate friends over the years. There are the childhood friends who grew up with me back in the day. There is my High School friend. And there are the college friends. And then there are the Chiropractic college friends. And then there are my siblings who I am happy to now count as friends. In adulthood, as a doctor, making friends has been more challenging, but there are a couple doctors who are friends. It's a time thing, really. And I do have some friends now whose company and whose money I enjoy taking on a frequent basis.

Now, there are many people I consider "friends"--that broad category of people who are better-than-acquaintances level. And this is where things get dicey. For me, an acquaintance is like a business acquaintance, someone we've met but not someone we count as a friend or know that well. An acquaintance would not be, say, a friend we've lost contact with, however. That person would be a long-lost friend, who is just waiting to be reconnected. Unfortunately, I've allowed too many friendships like that wane. And with the advent of the internet, it has been possible to reconnect and rebuild.

In the blog world, I've made some acquaintances. Do these, mostly women, consider me a friend or an acquaintance? It's not a real "knowing" is it, communicating via email or reading someone's blog or even briefly chatting on the phone? In fact, I've been surprised a couple times when the voice didn't match the content. And, as it turns out, I've surprised others the same way. Such is the nature of the blog world.

A friend of mine suggested that I diminish the notion of friendship by calling so many people friends. I responded by saying that I felt truly fortunate and did indeed have many friends. For me, a friend fits this definition:
A true friend loves me despite my faults. She shows that love by keeping confidences and giving true advice and just listening. If I needed him or her, this person would come the instant I called. That instant, he or she would get on a plane, and come and be here with me, if it were at all possible. In absence of that, a friend would give me love, time, money, or whatever I needed to survive.
Well, that does shorten the list of friends now that I think about it, but I still think that I have more people who are true friends, than I probably deserve.

How about you? What is your definition of a friend?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too prefer to keep longstanding friends that go back to my childhood. Though I only have a few, I cherish them deeply.

I am not good at all making new friends. It takes me a very, very, very long time. When I consider someone a true friend, it will be proven that he or she are trustworthy and truly accepts me for who I am. I feel that I can be 100% myself without fear of being made fun off or pushed away when it no longer suits to be a friend. When I have found a friend like that, I consider them friends for life. That is a gift from God.

I absolutely love the quote you have here by Anais Nin. That says it all in a very beautiful way. Each one of my friends truly represent a world within. Being enriched by their views, their thoughts, and their unique emotions, is truly a gift. Those that value me for who I am, feel just like that about me as well. That is nice. It is nice to be understood on some level...as well as give that kind of understanding to someone else.

True friendships are rare gift. Those must be cherished and cared for through love and prayer.

sts said...

A friend of mine once used the term "heart friend" to distinguish those with whom she felt intertwined and those who she simply considered friends, who are a step above acquaintance, etc.

I like the concept of a heart friend, over that of a "best" friend. Heart friends we have for various reasons. A sole, best friend, can potentially exclude others who would be included if we would only look.

Friendships are near and dear, and few and far between. I was scolded by my hubby tonight for not having spoken to one of my heart friends for months now. Life has, unfortunately, gotten in the way. She's still a heart friend, though.

Anonymous said...

YOu wrote about your definition aboout what a friend is to you, but what kind of friend are you? Do you fit the description? It made me think about my friendships and what kind of friend I am!

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite movies uses the term "kindred spirits" for true friendships. I like that term because when you have a true friend, there is a recognition of sorts, an identification that you can relate to. Somehow you just know and understand them on a different level.

Terri Wagner said...

Gosh, I must have a very broad definition of friend because I have many friends many reasons, i.e., friends I like going to movies with, friends I like going to the beach with, etc. I'm friends with all of them because we do certain activities together that in turn promotes conversation sometimes deep but never the same. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

Childhood friends have a special place in my heart, whether I've seen them lately or whether we have nothing in common anymore.

As an adult, I have lots of people that I care about. I'm not a chatty person, so I make friends by doing activities, or by listening to those who are chatty. I value people who are genuine and kind, and I love humor.
I also appreciate low-maintenance friends - they aren't needy and they care about things other than themselves. - HKH

Melissa Clouthier said...

Teri,

I agree. There are friends who we do things with and share various interests. Guys in particular seem to have the guys they hunt or fish or play ball with, but they wouldn't consider them a close friend.

And then there are, like STS says, "heart friends" who are in a more special category.

Anonymous said...

taking money from friends on a frequent basis? How embarrassing to even write something like that. What are you thinking?

Melissa Clouthier said...

Anonymous,

By "taking money" from my friends, I mean that I play poker with them and they, unfortunately, often lose :). (Of course, I have too. I'm probably even when it's all said and done.) I do not make it a habit of pilfering funds from friends. If, though, I needed help, there are those who would step up.

sandy said...

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Drawer2009 said...

I know it's a few years later, but I know what you mean. I'm 16 and think that in order for a person to be a friend they have to prove them self to me and I have to prove my self to them. I've have one person who I consider to be my friend and that because she been in my life since I was 11 she knows what my life is about and what I gone though.
She never once told me I was stupid for hating my life. She just stood be me and showed me that she loves me. I've lost contact, because I've moved to a different state. But can't wait to see my dear friend.