Friendship, as I was taught at a young age, is one of the most basic and vital pieces that make up a whole, healthy individual’s life. It is really the foundation of all social relationships, contributing greatly to our internal security of person and overall sense of well-being. I vaguely remember these words being explained to our first grade class, ironically enough, by our strong-willed teacher, Mr. Hammer. Of course there wasn’t the expectation there for us to understand or really appreciate what was said then, but that core message has never been able to fade out of my mind. I think, even while it’s not the main reason, this is so is because I truly respected the man; his strength, care towards others, desire for his students to succeed, compassionate nature, etc. There could be no better person at the time, in my opinion, for those principles to flow through. But the real rationale for the ever presence of these ideas in my head is the simple, yet profound meaningful nature behind them. I’ll admit, I’ve only recently grown mature enough to look back and intelligently analyze the deep significance of friendship for myself, but now that I do, it means the world to be.
I believe that friendship is the result of one’s innate need to feel that he or she belongs, or is valued, by others in a society. With the obvious need for establishing social relations and working together to achieve human progress, the intrinsic and substantial requirement for friendship becomes unavoidable in the grand scope of things. Now the question may come up: “Why are we this way?” This is something that I’ve been fascinated with for some time now, and the honest answer that I would give is that there is no response of certainty that I could give that applies to all people, regardless of their situation. Plus, taking into account my personal inexperience and naivety in life doesn’t help, but I would still be bold enough to go on to say that even psychologists, whose area of expertise covers this subject, cannot give a clear-cut response as to why either. No matter how you look at it, the human nature/condition, in large part, is rooted in a mystery which may never be solved.
Friendship, in its true form however, is an extremely powerful uniting force. Let me first go into more detail, for a moment, on what it means to be in a state of true friendship; although, I must regress just to say that I’m not sure that the following concerns me, because I don’t consider myself to have ever really been in this situation with another person. So it would be perfectly fair for you, the reader, to equate it with an idealistic, fantasized way of thinking, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, I sincerely think a true friend is someone who genuinely cares for your success and happiness in life, in the same way that you reciprocate the same sentiment for them. The fact of the matter is that in a true friendship, the level of selflessness must be mutual on both sides, because a one-sided attachment is never healthy in any relationship. I know that this might sound trite, but I seriously feel that in order to establish a friendship, each person must get to know the heart of the other. The most central characteristics that I would consider relevant to such a broad category are: how the person feels, emotionally, towards life, what their goals or ambitions are, what their beliefs are, and above all, how they are unique from everyone else. I understand that these conditions that I’ve set up are difficult to realistically be met, and that I may even be expecting too much, but that’s what makes a true friend ultimately special; how rare they are to be had.
In my own experience, I’ve recently come across another important question about friendship: “What are the differences in friendship across cultural lines; specifically, in American vs. Russian cultures?” This application of the concept interests me for two reasons. First, my dual nature of being both American and Russian makes it directly applicable, but also because I see disparities in how each culture perceives and values friendship. I know that this may not be correct for everybody in all scenarios, but this is how I see it in my own: Americans, in general, don’t necessarily have the same level of sensitivity and open-mindedness as Russians do in talking about non-superficial, important issues with others. It’s typical to say that we just don’t care. This, in my opinion, is because we are all brought up in a media-run society which glamorizes technological products and ways of providing any given situation with a “quick-fix.” Unfortunately so, this mentality pervades way too many Americans’ minds, and is illustrated clearly through Hollywood especially. But Russians, on the other hand, are much more likely to honestly express to another exactly how they feel, being straight-forward in their approach and not holding back discussion just because it may become uncomfortable to linger on personal issues. This tendency can maybe be explained, in part, by the relatively long-term oppression that Russians have had to overcome in their history, getting through many disastrous periods of time. I hope not to confuse and imply anything negative from the above, but only to analyze a meaningful contrast that I saw fit, in terms of the topic of friendship.
Now let me bring your attention to yet another noteworthy question that you may have around this time: “Assuming that true friends, as you described, can possibly be made, can they be lost as well?” What I would say to that is no. I believe so because, given the conditions that were necessary to make such a connection, the resulting intimacy between the individuals can’t be broken, in my opinion, by any force of any kind. “But what about betrayal,” you may point your finger at? The thing with this is that if a true friendship really was there to begin with, there could be no possible way in which a betrayal of any sort could take place. It all comes back to the worth that we place on our relationships with others. If, in this game of life, they are seen as worthy in both players’ minds, then that friendship becomes something amazing; something with which little to nothing can compare.
Friendship, by strict definition, is a concept. Thus being such, everyone will think of it differently and in their own way; as a product of mental processing filtered through their personal beliefs and experiences. In this way, I’ve made an effort to articulate and provide my own viewpoint on what I think friendship is, how it develops, why it’s important, etc. So, in short, I have no expectation or desire for you, the reader, to swallow this information and treat it as fact, because it’s not. Concepts such as this one are always up to subjective interpretation, and one can make grounds in their understanding by taking into consideration various points of view and measuring these up against his/her own. But as abstract of an idea as it is, I’ll try to bring it together by reemphasizing its implication. Assume that you have no friends because, hypothetically, friendship doesn’t exist; everyone would be enemies towards one another. I know that it’s debatable but take away love too, because love is at the crux of friendship. Now you mature enough to the point where you have the self-realization that there were only bad qualities within you, i.e. selfishness. Since there is no such thing as friendship, you have no one to support you and you live out your life in misery. This could be reality without friendship.