Is friendship glorified?


I have a need to understand friendship. So, I Googled the word ‘friendship’ and was quite confused after this exercise.

Being a good friend to someone has traditionally always been glorified as a virtue. And yet, all the definitions I found on friendship didn’t highlight what it means to be a good friend, rather, only what a good friend means to you. For example, friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring all right out just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping and, with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away.

What is lacking in these descriptions is that they are one-dimensional. They define an approach to friendship from one person’s point of view. My point is, what if you feel this way with a person, but the person doesn’t necessarily reciprocate your feelings with the same level of intensity? Can you still consider this person a close friend and call on him for camaraderie or in time of emotional need? I found the dictionary definition to be the most fair and inclusive:

friendship.n. affection arising from mutual esteem and good will

I can think of lots of people who stir such affections in me, and I would consider them to be friends, but is that enough to call on them? I think not. There exists a paradox about the genuineness of friendship that will last. What I mean is that most people will define a close friend as someone who ‘was there for them in time of need’. I strongly disagree with this concept on the basis that in times of strife people respond to other people’s needs out of humanity i.e. one would reach out to help strangers or acquaintances just as much as friends. Luck has a big part to play in where you find what you need when in trouble. Although one can turn to a good friend in these times, you may get what you need from a perfect stranger who you happened to meet rather than your friend. That person is ordained to fulfill your need at that point in time without any expectation of construing it as the basis of a lasting friendship.

When I was going through a particularly bad phase in a relationship, I was sitting at the coffee shop and was approached by a stranger who picked up on my low mood and sat with me for a half-hour discussing the importance of detachment. Several times in the next couple of weeks, we met to have discussions over coffee and as my mood lightened, I found that he had served his intention in helping me see things in a different light. He then tried to encourage me to pursue the path of faith through religion and I began backing off. That was more or less the end of that relationship. Did it serve a purpose? Yes. Did it go sour? Not necessarily. We just discovered that when not in need, we had less in common and we drifted.

So, if a ‘friend in need is not necessarily a friend indeed’, who is a friend indeed?

Is a friend someone with whom you can have fun and share good times? ‘Often, we may get attracted to people and become friendly with them only because they are so different from us. They may be from a different culture, different economic status, and in many ways, an antithesis of ourselves – which may be what attracts us towards them.’

Then there is the respect factor in friendship – what if I hold someone in ‘high esteem and good will’ and therefore can’t completely be myself in their company? This is a specific situation where age and seniority in life defines relationships. My husband’s friends inspire such awe in me and I know they like and admire me, but is that enough to consider them my friends too?

There is an element of ‘being needed’ that underlines a good friendship. You may have fun with someone, and respect and admire them, but they may not need to turn to you for advice or a need to share. Not because they don’t want to, but because those needs are already satisfied elsewhere. Can they still be considered your friends? When do you know that you can turn to these people for advice and they will not judge you for it? How does one know this for sure without putting it to the test? And further is it okay that you may need them more often than they may need you?

I think the concept of being a good friend is glorified like in the Mahabharata. Karna stood by Duryodhana till the very end even though he often disagreed with him in principle. He was a perfect example of a textbook friendship and has therefore been quoted frequently. Friendships like these are rare – what is rare is the balance of reciprocity in them – Duryodhana stood just as steadfastly by Karna at every stage in his life.

As is often the case, most of life’s answers you are searching have already been found by others. Therefore, it is fairly safe to turn to the stereotypes and take comfort from them knowing them to be tried, tested and true. So here it is:

Life can be just as much fun with lots of acquaintances, links and chains with a myriad of people who are in your life for a reason or a season. To make lasting friendships with them is up to you. If you choose not to out of a sense of self-preservation and fear of rejection, you may have lost the opportunity to secure a good friend. It doesn’t matter whether your ‘best’ friend also considers you to be his best friend. Life is anyways too shallow without deeply analyzing each person’s motives one-dimensionally and weighing them in your unbalanced scales tampered by the weight of expectations.


3 thoughts on “Is friendship glorified?

  1. As I get older, actually, as I grow spiritually, my concept of “friend” keeps evolving. I believe that friends are just people we meet along our personal path, who at a certain point in life, meet our own spiritual level of enlightenment, and match our current level of vibration. I believe that people are like magnets. As we continue to expand and grow, we are attracted to people who match us better. Thus, we must outgrow our friends, if we are to keep grow moving along our path.
    There is a quote that I posted on my Instagram that says: “If you haven’t outgrown your friends, you have not grown at all.” I truly believe they they are here to teach, guide, inspire, and help us move on.
    I have a problem with the traditional definition of friendship, or the expectations some of my friends have. I grew up in Eastern Europe, and USA, and traditionally people expect that a friend is someone to attach to. If this person is loyal enough to be with you forever, help you no matter what, hold your hand through life so that you don’t have to face life alone, to some this is a good friend. But not to me.
    I notice that now that I have undergone a spiritual transformation, and grown on so many levels, that my definition of friendship has changed. I no longer like people who are looking to become attached to me, in fact, I feel this type of friendship is toxic. I am more attracted to people who have a full life of their own, people with whom I can spend time with without feeling obligated to commit myself to giving them more.
    I like people who are non-attached, and understand that a certain point in our lives, we will both have to part. Those friends who know how to maintain a relationship without obligating me to a lifetime of loyalty, grief counseling, mandatory time commitments, or emotional dependence, are true friends.

    FYI, I love your blog, and your articles in The Elephant Journal. Looking forward to reading more.


  2. A deeper spiritual understanding involves letting go of our limited identities, understanding the oneness of all things and being in a space of warmth & compassion for ourselves and those around us.

    It includes learning to move beyond concepts and ideas and trusting our intuition and its ability to lead us through landscapes that we don’t comprehend.

    It includes accepting the flow of the river of life and embracing all the experiences that come our way, through our family, our friends and the perfect strangers that cross our paths.

    It includes nurturing and respecting our spontaneous urge towards unconditionality – which forms of crucible of friendship.


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