Who is a Friend?

Maybe it’s someone who seeks out the best for you or someone you can count on. Friendship involves give and take and to an extent I agree but, for those who know me, I struggle with the word friendship.

A professor in my 3rd year Global Studies class once asked: “who do you think a friend is?” Some students said for companionship, others said to have someone to run your ideas by. Once we all gave our responses, the professor explained that friendship is selfish. It’s about what we gain; not what we give. That really hit home for me. I wondered; are my friendships based on what I will benefit? So, I conducted an experiment. Thinking about all my friends - even those on social media - I came to a frightening conclusion: that I was engaging in relationships for the benefits. I was shocked!

To some degree, it was unintentional. We all have that one friend we call when we’re in trouble or the one we call when we need a ride, or want to go to the movies…check out your own friends’ list. I bet you’ll find similar results.

So what kinds of friends should we have? Based on my life experiences, I’ve found these are the best types of friends to have.

Friends that show empathy - I have come across so many people who call themselves a friend, but when there is an obstacle or difficulty in your life, they are never there. They may show you sympathy, but a friend should be able to discern and place themselves in your shoes - that empathy will strike a sense of connection between the two of you. Empathy shows that the pain you’re experiencing is your friends’ pain. I would gladly take empathy over sympathy any day.

Friends that give you constructive criticism - I have seen friends who lie to avoid hurting feelings. I love when my friends are honest in their criticisms. It’s for my benefit to help me improve and grow. Sometimes the truth hurts and having people who can give you that useful advice, in spite of your feelings, might be the kind of people you want in your life. It shows they care and they have your interest at heart. On the other hand, some people, can be very negative and try to deter you from your goals – those are not the people you want in your life.

Friends who believe in your vision - I remember the saying “show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.” Hanging out with someone who doesn’t share your values or life goals can sometimes deter you from reaching your peak. Some might be obsessed with money, fame, power, or status. And others, specifically me, might just want to make a meaningful impact on the world. Again, you don’t have to share the same goals to be friends, but there should be an extent to which your goals are compatible.

Friends that give more than they take - To be honest this where I suck as a friend. Most of the time when I give something to a friend, I expect something in return. But after years of careful reflection, I find that having a mindset like that can destroy relationships. Giving should come from our hearts and we should always give with extreme joy. We should see giving as a meaningful contribution to the life of a friend in need. Our reward can only come from God. I am avidly working on becoming more of a cheerful giver – only giving what I have to give. Become givers not takers because as the saying goes, “Givers never lack!”

Friends that build you spiritually - The mysteries of life can be overwhelming. No one is an island; we all need someone to make sense of our experiences and misadventures. This is when you need a friend who is spiritually sound. He or she can be an uplifting messenger for you when you need it the most. This is the kind of friend I desire the most.

While my definition of friendship might differ from yours, there is one thing we have in common, we all need someone to call a FRIEND.

Who is a friend to you? Share your thoughts below.

Caleb Williams