This has been on my mind a lot lately. Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple months. And even though I kinda feel as if things are still unformed in my brain—and I don’t even know if I can communicate it all—I know I just need to get it out there. It’s time.
Friendship. What is it?
Even in the ancient times, Greek philosophers were concerned with this very topic. Aristotle, especially, wrote some books on ethics and friendship, most of which is included in Nicomachean Ethics. Anyway, the gist of it is that there are a lot of different types of friends in the world. Just like there are different types of love (which I should also talk about!), there are different ways of being someone’s friend. Other websites, books, and tv shows say that there can be up to 12 or 20 different types total. A new category for whatever hobby you’ve got. Or whatever. Aristotle kept it simple, though. He had it down to 3:
1) The friendship of utility. When you were in middle school and high school I’d bet that a lot of your friendships were like this. You both got something from this symbiotic relationship that benefited you and your friend in separate ways. When I was in middle school, people counted on me to be my nerdy, concerned self. I was the worrier, nerd-girl. A lot of my “friends” needed me for help on their homework. Other people counted on me to talk to them and help them through their decisions in life. I was trustworthy, and eventually earned the name of “shrink” because of all the counseling and advice-giving I gave. And I’ll admit, even though the situation doesn’t seem ideal, I was happy. In return, I wasn’t socially ostracized. I knew my friends had my back; that was the price that came with the friendship.
2) The second kind of friendship is one based on pleasure. And, no; I don’t mean that you guys were FWB… That’s not necessarily what that means!! More or less, these are the friends that you spend quality time with. You share things in common like hobbies, ethics, interests, and ways of life. And that makes hanging out easy and comfortable with them. These are the people you go out with on the weekends and who you call up on the random breaks when things just get too boring. You always can count on them for a good time. We all have friends like these, I’d bet my life savings on that fact.
3) “Good friendship" was defined by Aristotle as something completely different than the previous two. In his opinion, this was the only really good kind of friendship. The other two just seem fake in comparison. Friendships based on goodness and actual caring and understanding of the other person are long lasting—far longer than the other two. This kind of friendship is based on the type of foundation that you know that you can rely on, come storm or sad day. The other two types give too much wiggle room for manipulation and indiscretion of any kind. This is why “good friendship” is what we should all be striving for: loving people for who they really are and not for what they could give us. In romantic love, this is unconditional love; loving people not because we are blind to their vices, but recognizing their vices for their own worth (and almost merit) and still choosing to love that individual. Virtue is essential in this kind of relationship, in both friendship and love. Trust, and honesty, are also imperative.
So, what does this all mean??
As in any relationship, all of the 3 friendships can occur between people of unequal standing. Know, what I mean by that is in the type of relationship between father-son, boss-worker, ruler-slave; any of the three types can be displayed. In short, this is just how relationships work. We should all hope that we’re moving upward on the scale of friendship… But how do we know? It can take time and an open mind to recognize the trickery of an untrue friendship. Most of us would rather mope in the denial of our psychological defense mechanism than admit that our friendships fall under the less desirable categories. So, obviously, the first step to realizing the reality of our relationships is to take off the rose-colored glasses.
I’ll admit, I’ve had some trouble with this very subject. When I like a person, and a friend or otherwise, I have the tendency to put them on a pedestal. They can do no wrong in my eyes; and in the worst cases, even though I could admit that they had faults, I was fooling myself into thinking they weren’t big problems and that I could handle anything they did… Boy, was I fooling myself big time. Well I fall out of love, or if a friendship of mine drifts into forgetful acquaintanceship, the friends fall from grace can be devastating. Sure, I’d like to believe that I’m better off seeing the world in a less rosy-colored state, but is that true? I used to believe that a person can only have three general opinions of others. You love someone to death, you hate someone’s guts, or you don’t care at all. And it figures out to be true. The human brain categorizes in extremes. Therefore, there’s no easy way to change your point of view, accept reality, or take off those damned rose-colored glasses.
I know that seems pretty cynical, but that’s how I’m feeling right now I guess.
Lately a friend of mine asked me if I believed in “soul mates.” This is along the lines of what I told her:
I don’t know if I believe in soul mates… I kind of hope I don’t. Otherwise, how could I ever be happy, knowing there’s only one way for me to be in love the right way? I believe, and hope more than anything, that they are just some people that you CLICK with. And I’ve seen it happen. Some people I believe you are fated to be friends with. And that no matter how things end, you guys are better because of the love that you shared. Because there are different kinds of love, too.
Platonic. Friendly. Lustful. Godly love. Eternal love… You get the picture…
I mean… I’ve thought about it a lot:
I don’t have that much time in the world. And if you think about it, being so young now, I’m about as pretty as I’m going to get. And I’ve never really been in a meaningful relationship… I don’t expect to be any time soon. As if my “soul mate” will ever actually take the time and energy to show up here… So, is it okay to settle for second best? never knowing if there is someone better suited for me out there? Is it all right to fall in love and let it kill me?
If you ask me, Romeo and Juliet could have done better. Did they know what they were getting themselves into? Was it really worth it? These things take time. And they were only just kids. What if she found out she really did like Paris? that they were better together? that he would treat her better? love her longer? I mean, you’ve got to admit that it’s possible, right?
knowing that possibility, could she transcend death? to be truly in love, eternally, with her real soul mate?”
Some days I wish I could just skip to the end. Is there really a “happily ever after” waiting out there in the land of fairies and unicorns? Or am I just placing all my eggs in one very unreliable basket? I wish I could say that all the types of friendship were genuinely of value… that it didn’t matter if the people you hanged out with on the weekends really had your better interest in mind. If it’s okay that your club-hopping buddies really don’t have your back, or at least they did on the “good days.” Because when it comes down to it, other than a relationship with Christ, I’ve never ever seen someone make it past friendship type number 2. Is it just because the human experience can’t be anything other than selfish and short-sighted, or am I just hanging out in the wrong crowd?
Waiting for my magic eight ball to finally come up with some decent answers, it’s me, Erin. Or maybe just waiting for some validation on my life-choices…
I know this is ever so dorky, but this is what I want for my birthday! (That, and Millenium or Circ so that I can check out my books to friends instead of just loaning them ;) Nerd Librarian FOR LIFE!!