What is a friend? I’m sure each person that you ask would give you a slightly different answer – after all, friendship means different things to different people.
My own perspective is that it’s an honour for somebody to count you among their friends – it’s something you can attain by proving yourself to the other person; by being supportive, by helping them out, by being good to them. I realise I’ve just listed three things which sound like they’re all the same thing, but in my head I intend them all to have different meanings.
For me, a friend is somebody who: I enjoy the company of, I know is a good person and has shown in some way that they care about me. I know those are pretty broad terms, but friendship itself is a very broad thing.
A friend can be someone you know for years and years and who continues to be a positive influence on your life, or someone you know only briefly, but who still proves themselves to you. If a friendship only lasts a year, it doesn’t mean it was any less real. The experiences are still valuable and the positive impact still counts, even if you have gone your separate ways.
But what I don’t like, is when somebody lists every person they’ve ever encountered as a friend. In my opinion, just because you’ve met somebody, it doesn’t mean that you’re friends. Even if you’ve had a couple of conversations with somebody and had good chemistry with them. These are just friendly acquaintances.
Knowing someone is very different to being friends with them, because to be friends is to actually share something substantial. I feel like those who count every person they know as a friend, ultimately cheapen the concept. In fact, I almost wonder if they really value “friends” or if they honestly get just as much out of that person they met at two parties as they do from people they’ve met up with regularly for decades. Maybe that’s too cynical of me, but maybe it’s an accurate reflection of a society which doesn’t put much value on friendships…
So, I’m much more wary of using the word ‘friend’ and if and when I do use it, it means I am making a very high commendation of the person I am describing.