Friday, July 18, 2008

What qualities make a great friend?

I am pondering this question very deeply today. I feel like I'm about to lose another great friend. To say that it saddens me deeply would be a vast understatement. There's a chance that I may not lose this friend, but that the relationship may go from 'great' to 'good' or maybe even down to 'fair'.

  1. What are some of the qualities of a great friendship?

  2. What differentiates a great friendship from a good friendship?

  3. What differentiates a fair friendship from a friendly acquaintance?

For me, one of the qualities of a great friendship is lack of judgmentalism. I know that's not officially a word, so I'll elaborate.

A great friend is someone who you share thoughts, feelings, and opinions with, where the sharing feels safe from judgment. You feel that you can tell each other virtually anything and the other persons opinion of you will not diminish based on what was shared. If the great friend does not agree with your opinion on something, they will not diminish the value of your opinion by letting you know that they think you are wrong. They let you know that they value your opinion even though they may hold a different viewpoint. I have had only a very few friends that have fallen into this category.

A good friend is someone who you share things with, but whose opinion of you may change due to what has been shared. If a good friend does not agree with your opinion on something, they may (typically accidentally or inwardly) become angry with you, or disapproving of you, that you acted a certain way or believe differently than they do. Some good friends are skilled at not letting you know that they disapprove of what you have shared. Some are not so good at it. I have several good friends that fall into this category. I do not fault them for this. We can't all share 100% of our friends' opinions. However, I really value the gift of the great friend who values you because of your differences, not in spite of them. They don't hold themselves any higher than you due to any differences. They truly value who you are.

A fair friendship is one where you enjoy spending time with someone but are VERY select in any sharing you might do with them. The reason behind this could be that you suspect that your viewpoints are different on many things from the outset. There are areas that you are in true sync with such friends on, so you are comfortable sharing those areas of your lives. However, these friendships are somewhat limited. Sometimes, such friendships can grow into deeper friendships. However, in my experience, most of these relationships remain pretty compartmentalized. Some deep friendships diminish into 'fair' friendships due to time and distance. As expected, I have a good many 'fair' friends. I suspect that we all do.

I am not a 'great' friend to all of my friends. I know that. It is easier for me to have that kind of relationship with some people more than others. I think both parties have to where their hearts on their sleeves somewhat and trust each other. And, that really and truly is VERY difficult.

There is a place in everyone's social lives for all three classes of friends. They all have value.

What do others think on this?


Summer said...

I must have been on the same wavelength as you. I'm in the process of writing a friend post. I agree with you on your friendship levels. It's always sad when you lose a great friend. Been there.

changejunkie said...

I thought this was interesting. I tend to put people in the friendly acquaintance or friend categories. With friendly acquaintances, I can enjoy their company, do things with them. But it's not the deep, mutual connection of friendship. A real friend cares about your welfare, and you care about theirs. And you can be completely yourself with a true friend.

Kitten Herder said...

ChangeJunkie -

We have similar perspectives. I just have an additional gradation, I think. I KNOW I can be myself with you. :)