What is friendship?

One of the things that has moved to the forefront of many of our minds are who our friends really are. A pandemic seems to be an effective social sifter. It became very apparent to me who cared about me and who was good just knowing me.

So, with that being said, what is friendship?

For such a complex and deeply profound question, I turned to a professional…my 5 year old daughter.

I asked her, “how do you know you have a friend?” She said that you have to give it time to figure out your friendship. I agreed, but I pressed her for how do you know they are your friend. She finally said that when that person is nice to you. THAT, I could work with.

friends are nice to each other
Laughing at me jokes is how my friends are nice to me.

Friendship begins with shared interests, values, and activities. It takes time for us to find people who share enough of these for us to open the door and let them in. I know a lot of people that I share interests with, but they are not my friends. They are…acquaintances. Activities tend to be the best test of a friendship. Once you start doing something together, you find out if that person is nice to you, nice to others, and ultimately someone you want to spend time with.

I then asked my daughter, “what does it mean for you to be a friend?” She said, “It’s just nice.” I needed to clarify whether or not that meant that it felt nice when people treated her nice, or if it meant she had to be nice to someone else. She said it was a little bit of both.

being nice to people feels nice
Friends make us feel nice

Friendship is chosen. We share experiences with someone and it makes us feel good. Because we feel good, we chose it again. Here is where we transition to real friendship, or regress back to acquaintances. If we chose to interact with these people purely because it makes us feel good, then we will start to use people. This comes out when you can’t leave your house and realize that your friend can’t make any time to do a zoom call with you. One of the two sides was in it selfishly. If you are then nice to them, as my daughter puts it, you make them feel good and the relationship becomes reciprocal. That is when, I believe, we transition to friendship.

Friendship is one of the most difficult because it is not driven by any biological need. Friendship has to be chosen. It takes work. It takes effort. Because of this, it is one of the greatest of loves. I encourage you to take time and effort to cultivate friendships.

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