I’ve always been very wary of saying the words “he/she is my friend”; in my opinion there are so many nuances and implications of this sentence. I often say that there are people I’m friendly with, and there are people I’m friends with. I’m wary of mistaking simple admiration and surface level communication for true intimacy, scared of giving the title ‘friendship’ to a fickle connection that I know will not last.
About friendship, true friendship, I have questions.
- Who is a friend?
A friend is a person before whom we can strip our ideal self in order to reveal the real self, vulnerable and imperfect, and yet trust that it wouldn’t diminish the friend’s admiration and sincere affection for the whole self, comprising both the ideal and the real.
This definition from Maria Popova strikes a chord with me. It is one of the more accurate descriptions of the word ‘friend’ that I have seen. In this article, Popova proposes a critical exploration of our everyday platonic relationships in a bid to reduce the commodification of the word ‘friend’ and discover those truly deserving of that title.
So who is a friend for me? At the risk of sounding cliche, I will say that a friend is the person who will climb with you to the heights and sink with you to the lows, the one who will allow you bare yourself to them, and in return bare themselves to you, the person in whose hands you can place your heart and your life and know that you are completely safe.
2. What does true friendship entail?
Several things, the most important of which is emotional honesty. For friendship to bloom, it requires other things, like mutual admiration, a certain basic level of connection, shared interests et cetera, but for none of these things must emotional honesty be sacrificed, because it is only from emotional honesty that true intimacy can grow. In Popova’s article she suggests a “conception of friendship as concentric circles of human connection, intimacy and emotional truthfulness, each larger circle a necessary but insufficient condition for the smaller circle it embraces.” For me, the one thing separating the concentric circles and preventing them from melting into each other is emotional honesty. It is the person I am most willing to strip myself before that I can call my friend.
3. When is a friendship toxic?
This is a question that invites unique and individual answers, and mine is this: a friendship is toxic when it requires the fading of one party so that the other may shine, when it turns one party into nothing more than a fancy carnival mirror for the other, attractive only in that it highlights his/her best features and makes that party feel good constantly, with little to no regard for the person beneath. As diverse and unique as friendships formed every single day are, the thing they must have in order to stay the course is an equity of spirits, neither party’s identity sacrificed for the other’s.
To this I would add that in the fullest and most rewarding of friendships, the two friends are always a little bit in love with one another.
From these two articles and many many nights of introspection, I have learned that loneliness does not mean accepting just any sort of friendship/companionship that is offered; that friendship is a sacred thing, perhaps one of the most rewarding fruits of life’s experience; and that it is necessary, imperative even, to seek out in every friendship, emotional honesty, intimacy, love and a willingness to buoy each other up and witness each other’s lives. And these things I will seek till my dying day.