Recently, on an email service on the internet I was told my best and oldest friend was NOT my friend, and I was asked to invite her to be my friend. This question also comes up constantly when you are social networking on the Internet. Despite the ease of communication reasons given, I believe the intention is to increase user numbers for the individual site – using the guise of ‘friendship‘, and abusing and demeaning the honesty of the word and of the relationship the word epitomises.
A friend, according to online english dictionary definition, is a comrade, a confidant, an ally, a supporter, a person attached by affection or personal regard and respect. A friend in pre-computer times meant all of these things, and even more. And for many of us, this has not changed. Friendship must be earned – not granted by invitation. It is trust, developed gradually, tested time and time again, strengthened by adversity and able to overcome any trials that may try to weaken or sever it.
Sadly, the words friend and friendship are yet another instance of words that have acquired bizarre new meanings in today’s world. Words like – ‘gay’, ‘butch’, ‘filthy’, ‘wicked’, ‘sick’, ‘ankle biter’ – none of them meaning anything vaguely like their original concept. Why not invent new words, instead of debasing the old? It is a real mystery to me and many other wordsmiths who love and treasure our words for the ‘pearls’ that they are.
So what IS friendship, as understood once upon a time?
There are strangers you offer small gestures of friendship – like a smile, a thank you, a little act of kindness or assistance. And many acquaintances receive degrees of friendship by co-operation and assistance; by a friendly word to reassure or comfort; by freely giving a short time (sometimes more) listening to their story. Maybe this is as a casual friend or as a volunteer in a counselling role. The important thing here is that it is given – spontaneously and with no strings attached.
Moving on to friendship in a more profound form – you find that ‘fair weather’ friends abound – always there to bask in the radiated sunshine of your best days, and to share your triumphs vicariously. And they can multiply in direct proportion to the degree of your success by some amazing process that exists with such people.
Sadly and far too often, many of these ‘friends‘ tend to vaporise when the first chill winds blow across your life; and then a whole heap more simply dissolve when ‘storms’ arrive (as they constantly do, in this event called Life).
But at last, through the mists of crass and shallow expressions of friendship, comes the genuine ‘evergreen’ friend… and this one is pure gold. A loving, comforting presence walking ‘alongside you’ through the extreme highs and lows of your days. A non-judgemental presence who doles out quality support and empathy in equal amounts as needed, advice when requested and love eternally, without being asked.
Time, separation and changing life circumstances (for either of you) will not alter the quality or reliability of this ‘ultimate’ friendship. Emotional, physical and financial ups and downs have no effect on these attributes for a true friend.
And so, you are told this person is NOT your friend… and requires an invitation? I think not. Most certainly not so with my oldest friend and I.
This whole concept is insulting to each one of us who genuinely IS a friend… or HAS a friend… in ‘real’ time.
© 2014 Christine Larsen All Rights Reserved