Yellow Rose

The yellow rose symbolizes friendship

I am fortunate to have a lot of people in my life that I call friends.  The reason I phrase it that way is because I think I call people friends that others might refer to as acquaintances.  But if I like you, and we’ve gotten together in person on purpose, you’re my friend.  Actually, I have a few people that I call friends whom I’ve never met or only met by accident once, but we’ve communicated since then on purpose. 

Anyhow, definitions aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately.  I recently tested a close friendship (without really meaning to) by allowing my selfish, inconsiderate and not-so-nice side to escape.  And my friend’s very mature and forgiving response got me thinking.  What is it about certain people that allow you to be totally yourself around them?  What is the recipe for having and being the kind of friend who will do (just about) anything for you, but will still stand up for their own needs?  And how many of these people is it possible to cultivate these kinds of friendships with? 

I think the answer to the last question is that you can’t have a lot of those friends.  I think you can have several, but it takes time and energy to grow a friendship that close and intimate, and we are all very busy. 

Which is why we have different kinds of friends. 

Friends For a Reason

A great example of this from my life is my Maid of Honor.  We became friends in college and spent a lot of time together.  We took a lot of the same classes and really enjoyed each other’s company.  At the end of college, when I was finally getting married, I decided that she would be the perfect Maid of Honor in my wedding.  I agonized over the decision a little – I had other friends with whom I had been close for a longer period of time.  But in this case, I knew that I needed a particular kind of friend in that role – a friend for a reason.  What I needed was someone who could set aside her own needs for the day of my wedding and a few specific days before the big day, and just focus on me.  I’m not normally a “take care of me” person.  I like to do things for myself and it’s very hard for me to ask for help.  But I knew that on my wedding day, I would need the kind of friend who would rub my feet to relax me, keep me calm if I got too emotional, and make sure the day was all about me (and my husband of course).  I got what I needed that day.  Unfortunately, after the wedding, we both got busy with our lives and drifted apart.  There was no fight – no ill feelings at all as far as I know.  We bumped into each other a few years later and had a great chat, and then proceeded to lose touch again.  She was the friend that I needed for the reason of being a wonderful Maid of Honor at my wedding.  And she served her purpose well. 

 Friends for a Season

I have a lot of friends that fall into this category.  I think it’s because I make friends very easily, and so if it becomes difficult to keep in touch because of distance, I will still love you, but I’ll make more friends who are easier to get together with.  Now distance, in this case, doesn’t necessarily mean a big distance.  I’ve made some really good friends at work only to have them fade into the background when I’ve started another job in the same city or even just moved into another department.  It’s not that they weren’t good friends in the first place.  It’s that they were friends for the season during which we were placed together.   Some of these seasonal changes have made me a little sad.  I wish that I had made more of an effort with some of them.  Thankfully, there is Facebook, where you can keep in touch with people who were friends for a reason or a season without having to invest too much time or energy. 

 Friends for a Lifetime

And then there are those friends who just seem to stick around forever.  I am very fortunate to have several of these friends.  These are the friends with whom you can step back into each others lives after time or distance has separated you, and it’s like nothing ever changed.  These are the friends who make the effort to keep in touch even if you are separated for a while.  These are the friends to whom you turn when life is hard.  And hopefully they are close enough that you can unveil your ugly side once in a while and emerge from the experience with a friendship that’s stronger than ever.  They are like family, but family you’ve chosen. 

I think I need to do some more thinking about my questions at the beginning.  I’m sure that as I explore my friendships and work at them, I’ll find some answers.  I’ll keep you posted.