When strangers stop being strangers, they can become acquaintances, friends, or significantly more with varying degrees of commitment from platonic pals to marital mates and everything in between. What ingredients are essential to maintain a friendship that is strong enough to weather all of the obstacles that confront two totally different individuals? Trust? Understanding? Compassion? Concern? Can the lack of any one of these destroy a relationship? Let’s see what it is that makes friends what they are.
Friends care about each other. They are concerned about the health and welfare of each other. They feel each other’s pain and share each other’s joys without any sense of jealousy or envy. They put each other before any other lesser entity without hesitation. They think about each other even when there are no reasons in particular to do so. They call without reason as often as they do when there is a need. But there are no expectations or demands on each other. They just know that the other is there even at times when one might have doubts. It comes down to trust.
That is what friends have. They trust in each other.
Friends are compassionate. They listen and empathize with the concerns of each other without being judgmental. They attempt to put themselves in each other’s position to try to understand how each one feels about a particular situation. They want to feel what the other is feeling. They listen so that they can absorb what the other is trying to say even when what is said sounds like juvenile rambling. They try to feel what the other is feeling so that neither jumps to awkward or inaccurate conclusions. Yes, they trust in each other.
Friends try to understand each other. They listen to the words but they hear the meanings. They listen to the tone, but they rationalize what underlying currents might cause any suggestion of cynicism, terseness, or acerbity. They know how to intellectualize situations and realize that the friendship that has developed is strong enough to withstand assault by misinterpretation. That comes down to trust in each other.
Indeed, friends must trust in each other. They do not try to change each other nor do they assume that there are expectations that they will change for the benefit of the other. They do not take offense at suppositions, allegations, or insinuations. They trust that the other elements, the compassion, the caring, and the understanding are dominant forces in the relationship. Because of this trust, the fortress of a long-term friendship is a lasting entity.
When do friends stop being friends? When they stop trusting that they are important to each other, when they stop caring about the welfare of each other, when they stop feeling compassion for each other, and when they can intellectualize that whatever good once existed between them is not worth keeping or remembering. What a shame that is because good friends are so hard to find and even harder to keep. It seems that, for some, the effort it takes in fighting one’s pride to overcome losing something so priceless as true friendship is not worth expending the little energy required to trust, to understand, to care for, and to maintain a sense of compassion for another human being.