Friend-ish – like or relating to a friend.
What About Your Friends?
Recently, I posed a question to the Dawn of a New Day 365 Face Book Group and asked what were some topics that might be good conversations for the months ahead. I was surprised that (without providing options) the resounding interest was FRIENDSHIP.
Though surprised, I felt that this topic was appropriate; as 2020 (in particular) and 2021 gave cause for people to value, as well as examine, most of their relationships. Because the human component of physical interaction and connectedness was one that was most affected by the pandemic, people realized just how much they did or didn’t need certain engagement. More than anything, I think what was most realized…was which people were most important in our lives and which relationships needed tending.
Last August, around National Friendship Day, I wrote about the importance of friendships in my blog The 5 BRA-S of Friendship; likening levels of friendship to differing bra supports – training bras, soft cups, sports bras, built-in bras, and underwire bras. Though October is not friendship month, it is the month for significant awareness causes – breast cancer, domestic violence, and pregnancy loss. All of which are primary to the female experience and are difficult to navigate through and overcome without consistent support systems in place. So, I thought this would be a good time to talk about friends.
Friend or Friendish?
As we think of the topic of friend, do most of us understand what it means? Do we truly have friends, or are we friendish?
In the definition of friendish, note it referred to being “like a friend” or “relating to a friend”; but it bears a bit of a varying distinction from an actual friend.
Merriam-Webster dissects the characteristics of a friend; fully defining a friend in the following ways:
- : one attached to another by affection or esteem
- : one that is not hostile (not considered an enemy)
- : a person who helps or supports something
- : a favored companion
- : a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another person
- : one that favors or promotes something (friend of the community)
These descriptors help us to better distinguish the attributes of an individual to be considered a friend. Yet, most of the time, we generalize the term friend and allow an array of all manner of relationships and associations to be included in those we refer to as friends. When in fact, I believe it would be more appropriate to use the term friendish over friend in most cases.
Given the definition, being friendish is a bit broader and more inclusive. And some of us are “friendish” to most people. “That’s my friend, Such-and-Such.” He’s my friend, Whomever.” “She’s my friend, Whatchamacallit.”
Yes! Some of us claim to have A LOT of friends, but do all the people we refer to as friends meet the friend criteria?
Some people disagree with me on this…but I correct my daughter when she refers to a classmate as her friend, and especially as her best friend. I provide the correction mostly because the name changes every day. She never has talked about them before. I have never met them or their parents. She doesn’t ask to play with them. But somehow, they’re her friend or best friend. I redirect her and say, “No, she’s your classmate.” Letting her know, in other words, she’s friendish.
The urban dictionary defines friendish as a person who we (or they) may classify as “friend” but only due to forced interaction, such as someone we may regularly see at school, work, church, or other social engagements.
Clearly Defining Friendship
The reason I correct my daughter on not calling everyone her friend is because I want her to understand true friendship; especially as a female. Most women are emotional beings. We love hard and hurt easy. If we’re not careful, we’ll spend most of our lives bearing the pain of broken or misunderstood relationships, because we want to give give give, but then become heartbroken when we don’t receive that in return. So basically, my correction to my daughter is my “note to my younger self.” I want to shield her from just a bit of the hurt I experienced in relationships and friendships; because she will have an understanding of healthy expectations and boundaries within relationships for herself and others.
The Need for Friends
In this modern-age of social media, many of us have increased our “friend” base tremendously; yet, people report more often feeling friendless or alone. Why? Because there is a difference between mere friendship and frientimacy. True friendship does not equate to quantity; it equates to quality. In other words, friendship has less to do with having a relationship or the number of relationships one has, and more to do with connectedness and intimacy within the relationship.
In his research, Dr. Dean Ornish reported a correlation between lack of relationships and premature death. He quotes,
Further research has prescribed that loneliness and lack of intimate relationships are as harmful to the body as smoking, alcohol, not exercising, and obesity. Considering this information, those who (for whatever reason, intentional or not) have had limited engagement with others may wonder why they may not feel well, or feel unfulfilled, grumpy, or irritable most of time. Part of that could be due lack of engagement with other people. Those individuals who report spending quality time with family and friends in ways that make them feel loved and supported are more likely to feel healthier and more positive.
That should give us something to consider. Which category do you fall into?
Friendship Health & Loneliness
My bonus-dad and I often talk about life as it relates to aging, and how important it is to remain engaged, active, and alert as we become older; in order to maintain just normal functionality of basic physical movement and mind capacity. We both agree that closeness and engagement with other people are important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But, imagine my shock to actually learn that the former U.S. Surgeon General said that
Sharing that in his years of caring for patients, the most common epidemic of disease he saw was loneliness—not heart disease or diabetes. (GASP!)
And a child shall lead them…
Learning of the affects of lack of friendship on health, it’s no wonder that children appear happier and more carefree than adults. They have more friends. At least in their minds. Even though they don’t truly understand friendship for quite some time, they are more open to allowing and wanting others to share their space. There’s literally an excitement that comes over them when they realize there are others they can connect with in any setting – school, church, sports, Scouts.
As parents, we’ll be very intentional about making play dates for our children and making sure they have healthy connections and social interaction; but then, neglect ourselves for this same need. Adults need playdates too; time to be carefree and relaxed with people we enjoy having fun with and being around.
Understanding the Importance of Relationship
Unfortunately, our understanding of relationships can become unbalanced and distorted over time. Most of us are fairly clear and connected in our relationships as children. As we become older, however, the parameters of relationships (particularly friendship) become a bit more complicated.
Usually between our 20s on through to our late 40s, we get busy living, conquering and accomplishing. During this period of time, sometimes we can become very single-focused on OURselves, OUR families, and OUR dreams; so much so, we etch out important people and relationships that were once central to our grounded-ness.
We may get to the point where some of our relationships may not seem necessary to our progression, because perhaps the individuals don’t have experience in where we’re trying to go; but their years of wisdom and their enriched history with us more than qualifies them for a long-term position or stake in our lives. Yet, there are friends and relationships that will be lost, dismissed, taken for granted or completely neglected while we’re getting on with living.
Mental Health & Friendship
So why did friendship become such a hot topic here recently? I think the answer is fairly simple – Mental Health.
During the pandemic, not having regular engagement with friends was not only felt, but, in some cases, was a detriment to mental health. The loss of some friends and the felt need for others, caused many people to re-evaluate and redefine their definition and expectation of friendship.
People realized or had to come to the conclusion of whether certain friendships served them well or not. Did the friendship contribute to their stress or cause levels of drama; or did certain friends help to add value to them in some ways?
Is this person truly my friend? Or…is this relationship friendish?
Either is fine. But IT IS important that the status of friendships not live under the shadow of ambiguity; but rather, be clearly identified so that expectations can be clear for all involved.
The Friendship Struggle
So why do friendships struggle?
For one…any time there are two people with different minds and different experiences, there is space for things like: miscommunication, conflict, and misinterpretation. But I want to save the reasons friendships struggle for another day. As I’m sure you know…there’s a whole lot to unpack there. For right now, let’s strictly focus on better understanding the definition of friend and friendship. To better help us understand it, let’s look at three main pillars of friendship.
The Friendship Hierarchy
When I started delving into this, I don’t think I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I thought it would be easy. However, I found so many articles, blogs, videos, and just overall opinions. I also began to ask those I engage with their take on the topic. I found that most people have similar beliefs about friendship, yet not everyone feels completely fulfilled in them. What I learned was there is a hierarchy (organized system of steps) needed in order for individuals to thrive in friendships.
The Friendship Triangle
I ran across a FRIENDSHIP/FRIENTIMACY TRIANGLE created by Shasta Nelson, a leading expert on friendship and healthy relationships. Her take aligned with or bridged most of everything else I read and watched. According to Shasta, simply put, friendship consists of three very simple concepts – positivity, consistency, and vulnerability. BINGO!
Positivity in Friendship
Positivity is the base or foundation in establishing a friendship. In order for people to feel comfortable in any relationship they must feel both secure and satisfied. Security and satisfaction come through positive words and actions. If a person is mean or rude to us, we are much less likely to continue in engagement with them. Period. We thrive and desire to be around people that make us feel good and comfortable with being ourselves.
Consistency in Friendship
Once we are satisfied that a person is the type of person we want to engage with, next comes seeing consistency in the relationship.
Now, consistency can sometimes be misplaced in our understanding of friendship. We have a tendency to want to put consistent interaction in place of consistent behavior. However, these two are very different. Because we are consistently engaging with our classmates, colleagues, etc. we mistake them as friends; but friends must always have the foundation of positivity. Positive patterns of behavior, along with regular engagement, are what take us from friendish to friend.
We can also have positive interactions with those we are friendish with; but then, more engagement builds…and interaction becomes more intentional and personal. We begin to spend substantial time with these individuals outside of the original setting and begin to do other activities together. The conversations flow outside of general pleasantries and small-talk. We become more open and begin to share of ourselves. People won’t typically open up to someone they can’t depend on to be consistently available; or to at least have consistent behavior of care and concern.
Consistency helps people feel safe and supported.
Vulnerability in Friendship
Vulnerability only happens if positivity AND consistency are both present; because, it is in both of these that trust is built. If an individual is secure that a person is going to be in their lives with consistent behavior of support, they are more open to deepening their level of sharing. They’ll begin to share their hopes, dreams and aspirations, failures and fears; aspects of our lives reserved for those we truly trust. This is where frientimacy happens.
“FRIENTIMACY – a relationship where both people feel seen in a safe & satisfying way”Shasta Nelson
In other words, all aspects of the hierarchy have been met.
Friendships experience struggle when any of the three components are missing, and can stand to fail if not addressed. If at any point the positivity shifts to negative, and consistency downgrades to inconsistency, we demote back to surface level engagement and have to rebuild. That is, if the friendship is wanted or possible. Steps of the hierarchy cannot be skipped or ignored.
So, now, ask yourself the question, “Where am I in my friendships?” Are you mistaking friendish interactions for friendships? With understanding the friendship hierarchy, are your friendships questionable or solid?
Having a better understanding of not only the definition of friendship, but also your own individual expectations and the expectations of those you consider friends, will help you determine how to proceed going forward.
Relationships and friendships are important. Our health literally depends on them. But it’s also equally important that our relationships be healthy within themselves and serve us well. Remember, friendships are reciprocal relationships and not just one-sided. They attach us together by esteem and affection to those we consider favored companions. Friendships encourage us and promote positivity. They are consistent and never hostile.
Treat others well, and make sure they do the same towards you.
Continue in the Conversation
Thank you for taking the time to read and hear my thoughts, We’ll be having the FRIENDSHIP conversation for the whole month of October. If you found this conversation interesting, don’t forget to LIKE and leave me a COMMENT. If you think this conversation was helpful, SHARE it with a friend. To never miss a conversation, SUBSCRIBE.
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