Author: Jenn Azu
A note to self and to whom it may concern.
Maneuvering relationships remains one of the most complex things I have encountered in my life. This is mainly because relating with others involves human emotion and oh, boy! what a roller coaster that can be. Whether a relationship is with a sibling, parents, a spouse or friend(s), it has to be consciously built else it will fetch a person nothing or worse still, deteriorate. I learned, however, from a dear friend that it takes more than one person in a relationship to build a solid relationship. This knowledge would have saved me many heartaches had I known it earlier. It brings me to the analysis of the concept of friend-relationship, at least the way I understand it.
One sunny afternoon while at lunch with a colleague, she enquired about my friendship with someone we both knew. “Actually, we’re not friends,” I replied, to her amazement. “We’re acquaintances, not friends.” I tried to explain to her that friendship depends on how you define it. Although the word “friend” is used frequently, sometimes we actually mean acquaintance when we say friend. To me, a friend is someone you have chosen to build a relationship with and you both are aware of the budding relationship and are mutually investing into it. The desire to build a relationship does not only have to be between a couple. A platonic relationship can and should be nurtured.
Before I go on, let me differentiate an acquaintance from a friend. The dictionary definition of an acquaintance is “a person known to one, but usually not a close friend.” An acquaintance can have something in common with a person such as age, school, work or nothing at all. Acquaintances could do you favors you might or might not return. They easily walk in and out of your path in life, and you will find it easy to cut loose from them as well. For example, saying goodbye to your work colleagues when leaving a job. Therefore, an acquaintance should not be confused with a friend. Understanding this difference will save you many emotional troubles.
By my definition of friendship, there is always something that serves as the bond to keep friends together. It could be a habit or an activity, but it is always something that is most delightful when done with your friend. For instance, your friend could be your partner in gossip, a fellow book lover, an accountability partner or someone you share your thoughts, ideas or intentions with and trust them to care for what you have entrusted to them. If your relationship is doing well, you tend to confide in your friend a little more than you would in a stranger, so your friend can sometimes boast of knowing you better than anyone else. However, if you do not understand this concept, it is easy to assume just anyone who sticks around long enough to be a friend.The danger is, when you assume, you don’t set boundaries to how you relate to the people around you otherwise known as acquaintances, and when you do not set boundaries you tend to reveal information about yourself that can possibly hurt you when misused.
Why choose your friend?
If you come from certain families where parents are well invested in the entirety of your upbringing including the quality of your character and relationships, you must have heard counsels like “choose your friends wisely.” Those words may sound cliche’ but are unfortunately ever relevant because a friend can influence your life in much larger ways than you think. Your friendship is powerful enough to direct the path your life takes – yes, the relationship is that powerful. You could get a job, marry a person or pursue a career through the influence of a friend. Personally, I had this experience back in high school days where I got a whooping 98% in math one term (semester) because my friend suddenly became hype about studying math. Unfortunately, a friend-relationship has the power of a bad influence like it has of a positive one. A friendly influence can also be the beginning of a destructive addiction, character weakness or poor decision. Proverbs 13:20 puts it this way “He that walks with wise men shall be wise” and you can guess what he will likely become if his companions are unwise. Therefore, It is very important to possess the maturity to evaluate your relationship(s).
Sometimes, it is difficult to admit or even realize that one is in an unprofitable relationship especially if you value or strongly desire acceptance, but it will never hurt to appraise your relationship at times and answer certain questions. Is your relationship building you or not? Or at least not hurting you? The quality of a friendship, notwithstanding, is the quality of the people involved in it. Your individual priorities, values, character, knowledge and maturity level carry over into your relationship, and although your relationship could evolve overtime if it lasts long enough, you will greatly influence each other, it would be wise therefore to be intentional about it.
Friendship is a great thing to have in our journey through life. If man was made to tread the earth in loneliness, we will not arrive in company of the unit called family. I am simply pointing out the powerful influence friends can have on our lives and therefore the need to be deliberate about that aspect of life.
“A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” Proverbs 18: 24