Friends & Family

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately: what a blessing it is to have true friends, and what a long journey it is sometimes to find out who they are.

My current definition of a real friend:

  1. Someone who seeks you out roughly as much as you seek them (or more! Not necessarily ideal, but nice).
  2. Someone who has time for you. Not that they have to spend all their free time with you or accept every invitation, but there shouldn’t be a pattern of “better offers” or showing up only when it’s agreeable.
  3. Someone with whom there is mutual honesty and openness, and with whom the conversations are about more than sports or clothes or how your week went.

I’m sure there are more criteria that could be added, but as a base-line definition, this is hard enough to find.

The trick, the odd fact that makes it such a winding journey, is that these qualities are often found in people other than the ones you like the most, have the most in common with, or “just click” with.

In fact, it’s a funny fact that a number of the people I value the most now were people who initially rubbed me very much the wrong way. Perhaps I’m just weird, or perhaps there’s some value to that tension and friction that opens the way for the iron-sharpening-iron effect of the best friendships, but it’s gotten to the point that in most cases, if I meet someone who immediately annoys me, I assume I should spend more time with them because there’s a value in knowing them better.

There’s a couple we know that, based only on chemistry, I would never expect to be “good friends” with. Pleasant enough to go to dinner with occasionally, but not people I would immediately think to seek out on every occasion. You know. But when I started to think about who our real friends were, not just who we might like the best, I realized: they are better than almost anyone else I know at turning words into action; the encouragement and generosity we’ve received from them are truly impressive. And when they needed help, we were there.

Why on earth would I not put every effort into continuing and expanding such a relationship? That is a more promising foundation than liking the same TV shows. In five years familiarity and comfort could long since have taken the place of chemistry. In another five or ten we’d all have assumed the sort of exception status, the unshakable-fact quality of family.

After all, family is not usually based on or unified by what a rip-roaring good time everybody has together – and nobody would want it to be, nice as it is when it happens.

(Oh, it’s wonderful to have friends who are friends for no reason other than that you have such good fun together. But in my experience, these relationships always come with an expiration date – unless the bond grows, acquires honesty, is tested by hard times.)

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you are all spending the day with friends and family – the family you were born to, and the family you’ve made.

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