So many things have happened recently that prompted me to revisit the meaning of the word “friendship”. Some of the experiences were personal and others I observed from very close quarters. We tend to use the word friendship loosely and that is exactly what I find very confusing. A lot of people have different notions of what friendship really is. Some assume friendship as soon as they meet a person and they accept them into their private lives without question. Others will like to know a person more deeply and much better, their backgrounds for example, compatibility issues etc. before considering a person as a friend.
According to the Wikipedia, “Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people. Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association. Although there are many forms of friendship, some of which may vary from place to place, certain characteristics are present and common in many types of bond. Such characteristics include affection; sympathy; empathy; honesty; altruism; mutual understanding and compassion; enjoyment of each other's company; trust; and the ability to be oneself, express one's feelings, and make mistakes without fear of judgment from the friend. While there is no practical limit on what types of people can form a friendship, friends tend to share common backgrounds, occupations, or interests and have similar demographics”.
As the saying goes tell me your friends and I will tell you who you are
What friendship is not
Friendship unlike what most people think these days is not having or liking you on Facebook. Very often you find the so called friends on Facebook assuming the position of closeness or even intimacy. That is absolutely out of order.
Friendship is not having you in my online data list. No doubt our online friends serve a purpose especially in the area of networking but for crying out loud they are not the same as real friends. Some of these people you may never meet them in real life or even attach a face to their names!
Friendship is not having a name in your guest data compiled for the purpose of buying “aso ebi”, or making your party robust, or swelling the crowd.
Friendship should operate at a level playing field. It’s not puffed up or acts superior. Friendship puts a relationship above being right or wrong, having or not having and more importantly it does not put you down.
I have watched some so called close friends and I always see a disconnect. If you have a rich friend, should his wealth not rub off on you? Your friend has 5 cars and you don’t have any. Is that true friendship? I know a couple of friends. They have been together forever; one so rich the other barely managing to survive. Yet they are almost inseparable. Is friendship only for joints to eat “asun”, small chops or to drink
Good friendship must have some form of equity. Even though there may not be a standard way of measuring what each party gets in a friendship or the contributions and benefits for each person however a rich man’s friend should also have some semblance of wealth.
Friendship should be viewed as an exchange in social behavior that may result in both economic and social outcomes. Putting it mildly, friendship should advance the self-interests of both parties. In other words friendship if true should advance your interest, add value (both economic and social and even spiritual) to you.
We must not lose sight however of friends that are impossible to lift above their “ground” level. No matter your efforts they just remain who they are and people may erroneously blame you for being uncaring and even responsible for their misfortune. These are exceptions.
Even though this article is not focused on what makes friendship thrive or fail, it is important to note that every relationship has to be serviced and nurtured otherwise it would fail. For friendship to thrive there has to be effective communication, forgiveness, openness, empathy, sympathy, love, respect, discipline, honesty etc. The absence of all these can never make a good friendship.
Qualities of a true Friendship
Permit me to use an illustration from the Bible of a friendship between two people; one a Prince and the other a mere subject who was no more than a shepherd; Jonathan and David. I will discuss only a few
1. Sacrifice. True friendship would sacrifice for one another. Jonathan as the heir to Saul was not jealous or envious of David even when he recognized that David would one day be king of Israel. Rather he gave David his clothes and military garb an action that meant that Jonathan submitted to God’s will and sacrificed his own right to the throne.
2. Loyalty. Jonathan was loyal to David till the very end even at the risk of losing his own life.
3. Freedom of Expression. True friendship should allow the freedom of expression of emotions, feelings. Both parties should be at liberty to be who they are. True friendship must have an emotional attachment and this helps to strengthen the bonds between the parties.
4. Poverty Alleviation. True friendship as noted earlier should add economic value especially where a partner is in a position to do so
5. Encouragement. A good relationship must be a source of encouragement. It should inspire and strengthen. It must provide a pillar of support especially in times of crisis.
6. The famous song Lean on Me by Bill Withers summarizes what true friendship should be
"Lean On Me"
Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow…
Lean on me when you're not strong
I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on.
Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show.
You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you'll understand,
We all need somebody to lean on.
If there is a load
You have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me.
Call me if you need a friend