Monday, March 30, 2009

Concerning Friendships

This is a posting that I did on Facebook first. Thought I would also post it over here.

I was talking to a friend of mine that lives in another state, and we were discussing some of the particulars of the nature of friendships, because they know that I'm not a big fan of relationships where all you ever do is 'catch-up' with them. I had suggested in the past that such a relationship probably wasn't really a friendship. So, I went on to defining that distinction more. But better back up more than that for now and start more basic on the subject.

I have a few close friends, and think that to a large degree what the majority of people call 'friends' are not really friends at all, but instead fond acquaintances at best to people they just happen to know their name or remember their face. To tackle this notion from a more obvious standpoint...all those people on your Facebook Friends list are not really your friends.

So, first off I know that to many people this comes off as being just flat out presumptuous, and possibly wrong. But there are ways that I believe you can qualify to yourself if you are actually someone's friends, and if they really are yours.

Test #1: The Commodity Relationship
Certainly being able to depend on people for interests you both share or hobbies is a good thing. However, if the person is the commodity, and not the activity or common interest being the commodity, then you likely aren't really friends with them. The common interest or hobby is just the door to getting to know that person...the person being the important thing, not really the common interest. If you are only interested in the hobby or activity that is shared, then I would suggest there is not really a friendship there...but more of a commodity relationship, because what that person can do for you, or what activity or interest you are sharing is more important to you than is the person.

Test #2: Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
The title of this one makes it sound like you'd rather have that person away from you, than you would be around them. But the test I'm after is the question of whether or not you 'miss' them when they are not around. Do you miss them being present when you both are not around each other? If life is fine and good regardless of it they are around or not...then you probably aren't that person's friend. And if they never miss you, then you are likely not theirs.

Test #3: Catching Up
Anytime you aren't actually living life together you will need to catch up with the other person. Couples do this all the time, as an example...such as when your spouse asks you about your day at work. This same thing occurs with friendships, and the test is if you have no interest in catching up, don't want to hear about the mundane things of someone's day or week (or month or year), and generally dread the catching-up process with that person...then you aren't their friend. If they have no interest in catching-up with you...they are likely not your friend. Generally if you are only interested in someone when something 'interesting' happens with them...then you aren't likely their friend. This last one is another Facebook pet-peeve of mine...where people only ask what is up with you solely when you post some crazy status update.

Test #4: The "TMI" Test
TMI, or "Too Much Information" is a good test for friendship. Life is a pretty messy thing. No one's life is perfect to say the least, and everyone has an ordeal going on in their life from time to time with their job, children, other friendships, private topics, spouses, churches, etc. etc. If the other person starts talking about something that would be considered in whatever degree either 'personal' or 'private', and you don't want to hear about those things...then you likely aren't really their friend. To whatever degree you or they claim is 'too much information' is likely the degree to which you are not really friends.

So, if you are not familiar with authentic friendships, then you are either thinking in your head that I have no idea what I'm talking about, or you are realizing that perhaps you may have neglected the possibility of close friendships with people or have been acting more out of self-interest than you have out of interest in friendship.

Then I would encourage you to better the relationships you have. Be interested in the other person...look past the common activities you enjoy and acknowledge the good things about the other person. Actively think about the other person's life, welfare, or interests (the ones that you might not personally be interested in), and think fondly of that person and who they are. Talk to the other person as often as you are able, and let both the interesting and the mundane things in life spark conversation and movement in the relationship to grow closer. Have that conversation about personal things or about the messiness of life...because perhaps you will sharpen each other and better each others' lives in the process.

There are a lot of people in the world, and we aren't on the earth for too terribly long. There is more to good relationships than merely a having a spouse. Certainly don't neglect your spouse, but also don't neglect the possibility of good and rich friendships with people around you that may be only acquaintances with. Clearly it is easier to have a ton of acquaintances than it is to have even very few authentic friendships (and you likely will only ever really have the few)...but it is certainly worth the effort.

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Someone had posted a comment about the number of 'friends' that a person can have, being a number around 120 in their entire 'circle'. I'm personally not under the illusion that anyone can actually have 120 'friends'. Perhaps they can have 120 people that they generally will choose to 'catch-up' with in rotation every few years. Anyway, this was a reply to that article and posting about a maximum number of friends a person can actually have:

There probably is. I don't know what that number is. There are probably only a few people who you can be authentic friends with. Perhaps 2-3 that you can be really really close friends with. That, of course, is part of the reason why I draw the distinction so quickly. Certainly acquaintances are necessary and good, but I would rather spend time fostering the friendships, rather than have a ton of acquaintances.

But again...I'm hoping to address those who can't possibly imagine 'missing' a friend, or those that can't imagine being more concerned with another person than they are about their own interests...someone who is not their spouse.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009