“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” ―Aristotle
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” ― C.S. Lewis
“True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.” –Baltasar Gracian
“Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” –William Shakespeare
People for millennia have been writing about friendship. Something as rich and meaningful as friendship has yet to exhaust words. Poetry, literature, speeches, and film have focused on it. Psychology, philosophy, and the social sciences discuss and study it.
Although there are some “loners” who are happy being so, most humans seek friendship in some form. Our closest friends have the ability to bring us the most joy—and the most frustration—of any other people. A severed friendship can bring great pain.
Good friendship is marked by qualities such as affection, honesty, generosity, understanding, compassion, and trust. Often, friends share common interests or hobbies, backgrounds, or experiences. Friends are those with whom we can be ourselves, without fear of judgment or rejection. Some of these friendships are formed almost instantaneously; others take time. But ultimately a deep friendship requires an investment of intimacy.
Karen Karbo, at Psychology Today, writes that studies have shown the two most important elements of friendship to be self-disclosure and supportiveness; essentially, friendships engage in the give-and-take of intimacy (2006, “Friendship: The Laws of Attraction”). Friends share what is going on in their lives and also listen and engage when their friends do the same.
Although it may be obvious that the presence good, healthy friendships carry emotional and psychological (and social) benefits, researchers have found that friendship can also lead to physical wellbeing.
There is some discussion of “healthy friendships” versus “toxic friendships.” Toxic friendships are those in which one person is being taken advantage of or abused in some way (typically emotionally). While we certainly do not support harmful relationships, we must also wonder if these “toxic” relationships could be called friendship at all.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How important do you think friendship is in life? How should (and do) our lifestyles reflect this priority (or lack thereof)?
What have your friendships been like thus far? How have they affected your life? What have you learned from them? How have they helped you to grow?
Do you agree that the give-and-take of intimacy in “self-disclosure” and “supportiveness” are the keys to friendship? What other qualities and aspects do you think are essential?
Friendships are a valuable part of life and can bring much joy and richness to our life experiences. These life-giving friendships require reciprocal intimacy, as we share our lives with each other.
There is fear that today’s youth have less meaningful personal interactions, and thus less meaningful friendships, because of today’s use of technology. Some argue that as youth spend more time in front of a screen, engaging on social media sites or online games, their friendships suffer. We should encourage our youth in their friendships.