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The World of Friends

Updated on October 16, 2009

Who are friends? What are friends? What distinguishes them from others? Are they the ever-reliable, being-there-when-you-need-them people? Or, is it their minority status that gives them the distinction and puts them in a class?

Although most of us readily and at times loosely refer to many people we know as friends, the appellation does not fit in every case. Some of us may think it is uncivil to describe someone as an acquaintance, which might be an accurate label, or may see no harm in introducing someone as a friend to another, whom you have known for longer. Of course, there are those who simply make introductions using people’s names and adding a bit about their profession, and perhaps allow everyone to figure out for themselves, from their mutual questions and responses, as to the nature of the relationship between any two.

To consider the nature of friendship from another perspective, can one’s spouse be a friend? One rarely calls one’s relations friends. A brother is just a brother, a sister just a sister and so on. Can’t a brother or a sister be a friend, too? Is a friend automatically someone outside the family?

More than the reliability factor, it is perhaps the freedom factor it is that determines a friendship. When you need some money badly, you may run to your brother, sure in the belief that he will readily help you. But when you have a terrible or embarrassing secret, or a personal problem, which you feel desperate to share with someone, you may feel safe to do that with a person outside the family, whom you describe as your friend, whereas your brother remains a brother, deserving neither an elevation in status nor any additional responsibility.

Is friendship then a strange or unknowable thing? Is a friend then an inscrutable being, an enigma? But, that sounds like a contradiction, as a friend is generally believed to personify dependability, someone you know very well, someone about whom you know a lot and, consequently, whose actions you can predict. Again, there is something that does not fit here. With most of us, very often, it is our friends who surprise us, not necessarily always pleasantly, who fail to show up, do not return calls, forget important things and exhibit an unmistakable and endless capacity for such errors of commission and omission, which can cause minor or major damage and disturbance.

Clearly and unquestionably, there is a difficulty in designating someone as our friend, especially when we assume the designation implies certain qualities on the part of the one so designated. Yet, once we have designated and accepted certain people as our friends, we do not confer upon them the inalienable right to enjoy the status. Rather, we promote and demote them as and when we please, depending upon whether they happen to cause joy or grief in us. Our own ambivalence and shifting perceptions about how we see them put us through a range of experiences and perhaps thus highlight the curiously beautiful inscrutability of the relationship. But then, only the really strong among us who also happen to possess a spirit of adventure survive the tumultuous journey and remain ever willing to indulge in further potentially perilous undertakings. Amidst all the confusion, one thing is clear: With a friend it is that one has continuous and abundant dealings. If that requirement were to be taken as sacrosanct for the relationship to be valid, then we are confronted with another difficulty. If you have continuous and abundant dealings with a person whose interests are in conflict with yours, as can happen, for example, in business, academics and politics, is that person then your friend? Is the person your enemy and friend? Is that a possible combination? Well, don’t we know of friends, our own or others’, who have wished and done harm to those whom they once loved and cared for, for reasons and under circumstances neither understood nor justified?

If we then admit that being in a friendship is tantamount to being in a double-edged engagement, do we follow any rules and take any effort to sanctify, dignify and preserve it? Perhaps, depending on whether it is more a burden or a blessing, for it is over time likely to be both, you cancel it by maintaining a sustained silence and refusing to respond to any communication or contact, or carry on despite everything.

If you enjoy a fierce debate, it should not matter whether it is with a friend or with an enemy. If you enjoy a delectable meal, the sort of company is immaterial. But then, what is critical is what happens after the debate and the meal. The enemy will have gone. But the friend will be there. Whether to contribute to your happiness or cause you trouble and pain, time will no doubt tell. But whether you stay or walk away, you will have to decide. Now.


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    • ParadiseForever profile image

      ParadiseForever 7 years ago from Chennai, India.

      Hi Vaidy,

      Very nice explanations and good definitions for various types of friends/friendship. Good reading. I am so happy to meet you here in hubpages, my good old friend. Can you guess who is this? This is your good old friend from an Ad Agency (ADWAVE). Still guessing? Oh! Keep guessing...

    • vaidy19 profile image

      vaidy19 8 years ago from Chennai, India

      Thanks Paradise for sharing your views. Although so much has been said about friends and friendship, the subject continues to intrigue and puzzle. Might not calling someone your best friend imply that the others are not as good and that they may never earn an elevation? Also, you may not be the best friend of your best friend - which is not necessarily a contradiction. Perhaps most of us will not give much of our time and affection and goodwill unless reciprocity of an equal measure is guaranteed. I guess we will eternally wonder and write about friends and friendship.


    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

      This was a great read. Thank you. You know what? I think my sister is really the best friend I have. By your definitions, a lot of my friends are acquaintances. But that's ok, it's ok...I like your presentation and way with words.

    • vaidy19 profile image

      vaidy19 8 years ago from Chennai, India

      Thanks G-Ma.



    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      I believe we have many friends during our life time, and each is for a good reason...some last, though can be more distant, and some are just for the time being. We live and we learn by each person we know, we give and we take and life goes on....

      Great read my dear...:O) Hugs G-Ma Merle Ann