What is a friend? Is it an acquaintance, someone you know? Is it an ally, someone who covers your back? Is it an associate, someone you work with? Is it an intimate, someone with whom you can discuss almost anything?
It’s all of those, I suppose, and perhaps more. But today the problem is not what friendship is, the problem is what it isn’t, as common as it used to be.
According to a 2006 study reported in the American Sociological Review, 25% of Americans have no close confidants. Here’s the lead paragraph of the article: “Americans’ circle of close confidants has shrunk dramatically in the past two decades and the number of people who say they have no one with whom to discuss important matters has more than doubled, according to a new study by sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona.”
Wow! One in four Americans have no one to talk to. That can’t be good for a society that may be facing some difficult days ahead. So I thought about it for a while and came up with six practical rules for being a good friend:
Friendship Rule # 1: The best friendships have meaning and purpose. C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominos or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.”
Friendship Rule #2: Don’t ask too many questions. I have a friend with whom I was a business partner for a couple of years. We continue to meet together often just to discuss the great problems of the world. We are convinced that if people would just listen to us – the world would be a better place to live! But we don’t ask each other too many personal questions. That may be a guy thing, but the rule is appropriate for all because there are some things about your friend that you don’t need to know and you know the opposite is true, don’t you!
Friendship Rule #3: Don’t give too much advice. When I read this quote I instinctively knew it was true and an important friendship rule: “Friendship will not stand the strain of very much good advice for very long.” – Robert Lynd
Friendship Rule #4: Share in sorrow and rejoice in success. When your friend hurts, cry with him. When your friend hits the jackpot, celebrate with him even though you may be envious of his good fortune.
Friendship Rule #5: Don’t do mischief. Friends don’t harm each other with gossip or spite or conflict.
Friendship Rule #6: Forgive in a flash. No matter how good your friend may be, one day he/she will break Rule #5, as will you, so be ready to forgive your friend quickly or you’ll not be friends for long.