I tend to think of friendship as its own unique form of love and friends as family. I don’t mean to start this article with a walloping dollop of cringe-worthy sap right from the get-go. All I want to do is emphasize just how important friendship and friends (human and non-human) are to us as human beings. They are the lifeblood of happiness, health, safety, security, community, family, and a liberated sense of well being.
As you go about that all important life-task of building your community of friends and loved ones, here are 9 moments in friendship that highlight it’s vital importance and the winding path to true friendship (grounded in reality of course, not the beautiful, well-moisturized, social scenes of the umpteen sitcoms apparently featuring friendships in their narratives.)
1. The spark of bonding
This is that moment when you know, you just know, that there is a connection. It’s really awesome. If it were an intimate partnership or a dating scenario, you would call it a crush, or chemistry, or maybe even falling in love. Who cares what you call it? It’s that spark of bonding (see, now you’ve got me labeling it), and it can only happen at the level of the soul. It is that instantaneous moment that, whether realized or not, there is a bond between the two of you and the likely potential for a beautiful friendship.
2. Building the relationship
This is the slightly longer-term phase of building the friendship that can provide a steady, solid supply of happiness. The relationship begins with activities together, lots of conversation, good amounts of fun, and more. But do remember that real loving friendship prioritizes healing, care, and nurturing just as much as laughter and joy. It’s important to find that balance to ensure that the relationship is built across multiple emotional planes – joy, sadness, care, solidarity, pain and so on – and not just the ones that are easy social highs (but by all means, have those too.)
3. Figuring out imbalances
All relationships have imbalances. They are imbalances based on differences of gender, race, national identity, ethnicity, colonial norms, economic status, access to education, and a myriad other social structures. We can choose to ignore them like dysfunctional sociopaths or deal with them like healthy people who care for each other. A great example is going out to a restaurant and splitting the bill, if one friend is better off financially they will not make their friend shell out for a place they can’t afford. Instead, they will visit a place that is good for everyone’s price range.
4. Dealing with friction
In a healthy way. Not by sweeping it under the carpet or, worse, backbiting and pretending to like each other while in each other’s presence. Friction needs to be seriously addressed it by affirming the care you have for each other, while being honest about differences and how much each can give to navigate those differences in a healthy, loving way. It’s not all hunky-dory mind you (indeed, I think the term “hunky-dory” itself should never be used by a human being ever again.)
5. Hurting one another
Real hurt can develop and be inflicted within friendships remarkably easily in our alienated, commercialized society. Even relatively healthy, safe friendships are not immune to this. It is worth remembering — the hurt has to be minimal at times or very quickly smothered with affection, tears, and caring laughter in truly nurturing friendships. But sometimes, the hurt lingers, even getting reproduced ever so frequently. Then there are some problems. And that means that either the friendship has to be over and done with (yes, sometimes the healthiest thing one can do is end a friendship.) Sometimes though it might just be worth fighting for it
6. Struggling together
This is the trial by fire. The rite of passage. The struggle for friendship together is probably the richest, most deep-rooted phase of the relationship. In truly healthy friendships, this means one and only one thing in my mind. We need to commit to the well being, happiness, and liberation of our friend and ourselves in equal proportion. If there isn’t a more or less 50:50 meeting point in the mutual support and care, efforts must be sought to arrive there.
7. Fighting for each other
When we fight for each other’s happiness, freedom, independence, well being, health, families, lives even, it establishes a mighty strong foundation for friendship. It doesn’t have to be a big deal either. Just the little things even. Whatever is possible within the limitations of your respective lives. But fight for each other. If you don’t know how. Talk to each other about the different life problems you’re going through with honesty and care. Try and figure out how you can help mitigate each other’s problems. If one friend is really in the doldrums, it’s the responsibility of the other to help as much as possible, not out of charity of altruism, but out of solidarity.
8. Laying a permanent foundation
You both know that you’re friends for life. Soul mates even. Once you lay that permanent foundation, it’s a great place to be in. Lots of fun, tears, shared joy, care for each other, even the occasional fight (or not, conflict is sometimes over-rated in a patriarchal world – why fight and argue when you can affirm each other’s humanity while agreeing to disagree if needed?). Then you move on, almost spiritually, dare I say it, to a space in your friendship where you are committed to and nurturing…
9. Love and liberation
I am of the firm belief that when humanity is truly liberated from all the forms of oppression we see around us, we will know the truest love and the most awe-inspiring happiness. In particular this means committing to the liberation of our loved ones from all-encompassing forms of oppression that vast majorities of the global population experience. Thus, a commitment to destroying oppression is ultimately the truest commitment one can make to love and happiness, in our lives and the world around us.
And of course, with our friends.
Featured photo credit: Happy Friendship Day by Premnath Thirumalaisamy via flickr.com