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By Brandon Grubb…
What’s A Friend?
I’ve never been one to carelessly use the word “friend.” If I call someone a friend, I can assure you it transcends mere acquaintance or occasional conversation. This was an aspect of my personality I acknowledged long before I understood psychological things about myself that I am aware these days. It has always bothered me to hear someone refer to another as a friend when I knew good and well that the nature of their relationship did not extend beyond having graduated together or a shared place of employment. My understanding of friendship has always entailed a commitment of time as well as an emotional investment and connection. Many people who know me would laugh at the notion that I would invest my time in anyone else given my tendency to go off the grid, but I can assure you there are those who know that in a time of crisis I will be there before their sentence is finished, willing to do whatever is within my power. Beyond even reason.
I’m not claiming that I’m the best friend a person can have, or even that I define the standard of what a friend should be. That’s sort of the point to this whole piece. As is consistent with my beliefs regarding nearly every concept in existence, I maintain that value and definition rest largely in each individual’s perceptions and experiences. I only know what I personally am willing to do, what I expect others to do, and the labels I choose to attach to these experiences and relationships. In recent years I have come to understand my own perception regarding things like friendship to be extremely consistent with other introverts. Dispel your stereotypical notions of introverts as hermits and understand that it has to do with how an individual recharges. There is no one who knows me very well that won’t tell you that I can and would spend ninety percent of my time in solitude and seclusion. I love to read, but have discovered that I am also capable of sitting for hours motionless following my own thoughts in loops and circles. What about the other ten percent of the time? I need friends.
I could probably count on two hands, perhaps even one, the amount of people I would call a friend. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of many people and not only respect, but adore them. Yet even if I have chance encounters and conversations with these people that leave me feeling euphoric, I will still hesitate to call them my friend. We may go fishing once in a while and have a good time. I’m sorry, I like you, but that doesn’t make us friends. You may frequently comment on or like my Facebook statuses, and I may in all sincerity do the same to you. That is not an objective reflection of an assumed friendship. I may spend hours offering you a service of which I am uniquely capable with no expectation of payback or return, which could include doing your homework or listening to you vent for three hours. I care about you and your well-being. That doesn’t mean we are friends. I love people. I care deeply about humanity and its overall health and progress. There isn’t a person that I don’t hurt for no matter how well I know or don’t know them when I’m made aware of their struggles. I can love you, whatever that word means in any given context, and still not refer to you as a friend.
I would not in a million years dream of naming the people that immediately come to mind when I consider who my friends are, or describe the specific nature of our activities and interaction, but I can tell you the consistencies that these relationships all share. When I haven’t spoken with a friend in days, or a week or two, I find a reason to reach out or simply just ask them if all is well with them. If they are having struggles that they are dealing with in their own mind, I want to provide them the opportunity to get it out. A lot of people are uncomfortable burdening others, and while I adore this trait, some disguise it very well. It’s a societal norm to put on a mask and wear it dutifully. This thought bothers me, especially in regards to those I’m invested in. As well, I treasure deep conversations. For all my introversion, I am never as happy or satisfied as I am following a substantive conversation with an individual who considers things that matter, and from as many perspectives as they can grasp. Guess what? I prefer they don’t always agree with me. Not even half the time. No one is invested in me or doing me a service if they nod their head and let me exist in what they perceive to be my own ignorance. If you value me, or if you see potential in me… progress me.
Perhaps this sounds selfish to you. Like I’m only interested in relationships that benefit me intellectually or otherwise. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I’ve said, I can love and go out of my way for a near stranger, but certain labels carry with them distinct attributes for me. Life is too serious for me to spend my time on whimsical or seemingly unproductive ventures. I can surround myself with individuals who share my sense of purpose or curiosity, and develop friendships out of these profound atmospheres. This is optimal to me. These people encourage me. They support me. They also rebuke me. Exhort me. No one thinks it’s a good idea for a boss or the President to surround themselves with “Yes Men.” They will never know until it’s too late when they’ve gone too far. Their inner circle is in it for money or position. I want people around me who challenge and refine me, while desiring the same progress for humanity in general. I want to be an ear for them when they are hurting. An extra hand when they don’t have enough strength. An occupier when time inside their troubled mind is moving too slow. I will not hold my acquaintances to these standards, but if I call you a friend, I suspect you already know that I believe you would do these things for me without question or haste.”