Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Friendship Questions

One of my students, now a freshman in college, is researching indiviual views on the concept of friendship. She honored me by asking if I'd be willing to participate. It seemed like bloggable fodder, so I've included it here for your reading pleasure.

How do you distinguish between a friend and an acquaintance?

An acquaintance, in my mind, is someone whose relationship with me is based on something other than me. A friend is someone who is there because of who I am, not what I have or do. It’s important to note here that there is a difference between friends and “chosen family”, which is a deeper, more nurturing and supportive kind of relationship. If a friend is there because of who I am, “chosen family” is there despite who I am.

How many friends do you consider yourself to have?

Of the kind described above, a few, but not many. Such relationships are good for the occasional gathering over coffee, or as entertainment, but I get much more out of my time with my chosen family.

How many good friends?

If I interpret the term to mean “chosen family”, then I am blessed to say that I have a great many. Best of all, I’m getting more all the time, which is really great.

What is the longest friendship that you have had?

I have known Sandy since my first day of college (21 years). Arthur and I have been chosen brothers for nearly that long (20 years). I met him originally because of Sandy. They were married right after college, but divorced a year later.

Are there people you tend to want to be friends with more than others?

I’m not sure how this questions differs from the one that follows. I tend to seek the company of people who bring a certain honest, tranquil peace to the world, although it’s important to say that they need not be calm on the surface. I do not necessarily mind boisterous or energetic people, but I will steadfastly avoid people with agendas and those who sow disquiet, however they may appear.

What attributes do these people tend to have?

Thinking on it, I spend much more time with women than with men, whether they are acquaintances or friends, as defined above. Perhaps that’s because feminine energy is soothing to me? I don’t honestly know. I can say that I have more female chosen family members than males, though that is serendipitous. My chosen family group is not created by me alone, but by all of us together.

Do you think you make friends quickly?

I can make friends quickly, yes. I moved every 18 months growing up as a child of a navy journalist, so I am quite practiced at it.

Do your friendships generally last?

Friendships, as I define them, come and go for a variety of reasons. They’re not supposed to last. Chosen family is a different. That status is not given lightly, but once bestowed, it is there for life. Those relationships survive distance and time, and grow constantly stronger even when denied regular contact.

Do you make friends with certain people faster than others?

I suppose I make friends with people faster when they understand and value the same things I do in a relationship. When we meet and see we have those things in common, it’s certainly easier to invest the time and energy to do more than simply be acquaintances.

Why do you think that is? Is there any certain attribute or aspect that makes you friends faster?

I don’t think there’s a universal thing that makes you friends faster, no. Most of us come to the people in our lives, like friends, by happenstance. There are universal skills we can define that nurture relationships into something deep and lasting, but how those relationships originate is, in my opinion, far more a result of chance than intention

What makes you feel comfortable with people?

There are lots of things, some of which I’ve described, but many of which are simply intangible. Perhaps they energize you. Perhaps they calm you down. Perhaps they make you laugh. Perhaps it is you who makes them laugh. I suspect that it comes down to some form of commonality that you both share, whether you consciously recognize it or not, but it is one of those things that I don’t mind describing by simply saying, “It’s magic.”

What are qualities that you want your friends to have?

Can I substitute for the term “chosen family” here? If so, I suppose I want them to trust me, and know that I trust them. I want them to be honest with me, with themselves and with the rest of the family. I want them to contribute to the friendship, and be a participant in it. Friendship, and certainly the brand of it that is “chosen family”, cannot be unilateral. I want them to understand that, wherever they came from, whatever baggage they carry or scars they bear, that they were chosen, and all the rest of it is simply stuff.