I've been thinking this past week about how we think of friendships. Our culture has celebrated family and romantic relationships for a long time as the formulaic answer to happiness. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase "we're just friends". Yes it is meant to distinguish between a romantic attachment rather than as a pejorative, but the qualifier "just" implies a lesser status.
Growing up I didn't have many friends. I actually didn't end up with any longterm friends until I got to high school. In my twenties I had intense friendships some which lasted and some that didn't. Having been a loner for most of my life I highly value friendship. It was in the past few years that I noticed that not everyone holds it in the same high honor. There is nothing like loneliness to make you appreciate good people except being around the wrong sort of people (which is its own sort of loneliness). I've had friendships end dramatically, and sometimes through fading and distance. Other friends I won't see for years and yet we still hold each other in our hearts. I've had friendships that have saved my life, others that have crushed my heart, Friendships have been my richest, deepest, and most enduring relationships. As such I am always up for making new friends. Every friend is its own adventure. So what's the deal with the "just" friends.
We live in a highly mobile culture. Families and individuals move around more than they did in generations past. It is rare for us to have a friend we've known since childhood. In some ways that explains why friendship hasn't gotten the respect it deserves. Neighborhoods have people coming and going every year, so getting to know people often takes more time than most of us have available. We have Facebook friends, and online forum friends, and sometimes we have never met. (Not to imply that you can't have meaningful online friends, but social support sometimes needs hugs). As we get older and start to get into romantic partnerships our friendships can dwindle particularly if our partners don't like the same sort of people we do. I've seen the scenario where a couple gets together and one of them will actively separate their partner them from their friends. I've seen where people after entering into a romantic relationship will simply forget they have friends unless that romance ends.
So where am I going with all this? Am I just ranting and complaining? I'll admit I am ranting just a bit. I just wonder if we've forgotten about the sheer joys of companionship. Having older relatives who have lived quite a long time it has struck me how important it is to keep friends and to keep making friends. We know ourselves through our relationships with others. In our families we often play a role that is very hard to change; we get to stretch our identities with friends. Friends are our traveling companions and you always want good companions for the road whether it be rough or easy going. What about you? Do you have your traveling companions? Do you value them and do they value you? Are you keeping the door open for new comers to your merry band? Do you make the time to connect with others? Has modern culture watered down your concept of friendship? What does it mean to you?
Peace and Blessings,