Tuesday, December 22, 2009


A two syllable word has become powerful, mystical, and yet allusive at the same time. A word that can bring color to the fair cheek of a little girl or tears to a grown man has become one tossed around like a hot potato. Life moves so fast that we never stop to question even the words we use, why we use them, and if we understand the implications of them. What is this word? Friend or any form of it, i.e. friendship, friendly, etc. I’ve often asked myself and others if friendship is something based upon circumstances, but recently have been challenged to delve even deeper and further back into this curious word; a word so powerful it can bring about the full gambit of emotions.

Who are your friends? What is it that makes them a friend? What must be done to attain the capacity of friend? These are all valid questions upon the voyage of this discovery.

A friend is someone that you are involved in a relationship with that is intimately connected with you on a platonic level. The intimacy of the relationship truly depends on each parties level of trust and respect within this relationship. What about time investment? Is it a large investment that pays out over the rest of your life, like childhood friends, or continuous investments on a regular basis, like a school friend? Intimacy, frequency, and humility are the key materials it takes to build and understand friendship. Intimacy and frequency can have differing levels at a static practice, but humility is absolutely key. Wait a minute, am I missing something? As much as you may think this question should be posed as open ended, it is, in fact, rhetorical. Most would say that there needs to be a bond, something or someone that bonds them, an experience or some sorts. The core dilemma in that element lies in its uncertainty. Experiences or circumstances change, as well as people and items. Friendship is such a complex thing to deal with because analysis typically is done so externally. Friendship is so complex because it is an attempt to bond two beings that have completely unique characteristics. Maybe friendship will never be understood completely because it ultimately comes down to something spiritual, something beyond our psyche. It comes down to two souls connecting in such a way they become bonded. While I attempt to explore some aspects of friendship I will not offer arrogance and say I have it figured out.

I have had the hardest time with understanding friendship these last 4 years of my life. Growing up in a city where you were born you know all the same people and meet new people through the people you know. I had that rug uncomfortable pulled from beneath my feet in March of 2006 when I decided to move to Indianapolis. I had no connections, thus no connecting points, to even begin with. I had to start with a clean slate. I think this was a painful process, but as I look back, has aided me in my understanding and attitudes towards friendship. I suppose naivety lead me to believe that friendships were based upon a common bond, like school, sports, mutual friends, clubs, or some other tangible factor. External elements always change, we have no control over it as the nature of the world is change. Change is inevitable. Unfortunately for many something as intimate as a friendship is based upon an ever changing element, some external bonding mechanism. This is not to say the mechanism or bonding element is evil or bad in itself. These elements simply help in the process of creating a bond. Circumstantial bonds are relied so heavily upon that in the aftermath of change are broken hearts, relationships, and deep seeded emotional trauma (whether or not we are willing to admit to it). If Mortal Combat were a reality and someone could actually reach through my chest cavity and rip my heart out there would be issues immediately. Beyond even your physical reaction and natural physics and anatomy you would suffer from mental anguish almost as painful. Your mind understands that you need a heart to live, thus crudely ripping it out would result in distress because you are missing something necessary for life. The same is true of friendships. Too many friendships are left in the wastes of our pasts because mentally we believe there is an element, physically, that is necessary. The necessary element is a bond based on circumstances or tangible, inevitably changeable factors. It makes sense then that one would freak when the essential, or so they think, is taken away. “I just wish things could be like they used to be…” At first I thought there was some cruel joke being played on me because everyone of the people I considered friends would ay this to me, almost in unison, in pitch, tone, and rhythm. I used to allow this to bother me too. I would analyze myself looking for whatever wrong I had done to change everything. What could I do to get things back to the way they used to be. I quickly learned that my search was pointless and quite empty. I began to ask, “Why would you want things to go back to the way they were?” I am now engaged, growing exponentially in my faith, full of joy, peace, and happiness. I have finished school, advanced professionally, given back to the community, and obtained so many other treasures from pure experience of things changing. Why would I want to give all that back? I can say the same of many of my friends. Why would we want things to go back? If the understanding is our friendship is based upon a certain bond and that bond has changed then it is understandable why we would want to get back. I’d like to challenge the thinking that it is one inert element that creates and sustains friendships. Excepting change and looking at our experience of friendship as the bond rather than the elements that made the bond would lead people to such freedom in the relationships they find themselves in.

Can we even find ourselves in friendships and relationships though? Magically we awake to being surrounded by friends that we just happen to stumble upon…is this reality? Relationships are intentional. Friendships take work. I think there are plenty of acquaintances we can have based upon the frequency in which we see or experience people and circumstances. It takes effort to allow intimacy. This intimacy is what makes a friendship different from a stranger you see frequently in the local coffee shop. Maybe this frequent common bonding element will aid in the beginning of a friendship, but the reality is that it will take work. Frequency cannot be the cornerstone of a friendship. Frequency is inevitably changeable. Any house built upon a shifting foundation will fall, much like a friendship built upon or understood to be built upon irregular happenings. I used to be the single, available, always involved guy at the local church community I help start. I was very frequent in circumstances, in circles, and gatherings. My frequencies lead me and others to believe we were friends. There are two people from that community I still speak to or consider friends. Obviously frequency doesn’t build friendship. However, if the mentality that frequency does is there then it is destined to fail and leave emotions open to pain. “We used to hang out al the time man, are we still friends?” Or even better, the attitude taken that if a person does not have an increased frequency then somehow his friendship is questioned. Frequency cannot and should not determine a friendship.

Seems to me that even these two, frequency and bonding elements, factors are at the forefront of friendships but fail to be sturdy for construction. What is it then that makes friendship? It is an internal element, the one only you and I can monitor or control. We have a sense of control when change occurs within ourselves. The madness that comes from external change does not exist when one changes from within. Friendship is based upon an individual. This appears to be a quirky explanation for a relationship that includes more than one person. Is a person willing to accept another person? Does this connection between souls, unexplainable in nature, warrant a personal response? If the answer is yes then the individual work begins. Effort, respect, and trust are key to friendship and each comes from within an individual. When these changeable elements transform we are left with nothing but ourselves. Within that self there is a decision making process that must be worked through. Will I allow this connection to be lost over things I cannot control or will I control myself and the elements I can in order to see to it that it works? It is easy to kick and scream about frequency and elements changing, but what happens when you realize that those don’t matter anyways? We aren’t involved in the same community any more, so what, what are you going to do about it? I have different priorities, thus different frequencies, what are you going to do about it. Can you reaching and change me? Can you change my personal choices or elements? The answer is no, so why would you allow yourself to become distressed by them? The reality is that friendship takes work, hard work. It would be easy and convenient if all of our friends were based upon like circumstances and frequencies, but then they would not allow for change. Are we willing to allow change in our friendships? If so do these changes just make friendship more difficult or tear away at the very essence of what it is? The answer to this question will reveal who a friend is or is not. If you miss that friend, stop wishing things were the same as they were, stop wishing away change. Make the call, make the effort to keep that connection you so miss. The reality is that this unexplainable connection of beings takes work when things change, which is unavoidable, thus work is also obligatory.

May you be a good friend. May you check your presuppositions about friendships at the door and not allow changeable circumstances to be the foundation you build on. May you reconnect the friendships you miss. May you accept change and work diligently to have friends and healthy friendships.

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