I was once someone who had a hard time understanding the saying: you only have as many friends as the fingers on one hand. I’ve learned a lot about friendship in the past few years and have come a long way in my reflection.
As a species, we yearn for connection, for deeper understanding, and for a way to overcome the sense that we are vulnerable. Through evolution, we quickly learned that we not only survived, but also thrived as a pack.
At one level, we can understand that we need others to survive, thus creating a need…attachment. At another level, we can observe that encounters may lead to growth and development. Add to the mix a little bit of emotion, interpretations, expectations, acceptance, compassion, and love. The result: a challenging yet fulfilling water to navigate.
As someone who values connection, I have noted significant types of friendships in my life thus far. Although they are presented in categories, they are definitely not exclusive.
This type of friendship lasts through time. The shape may change from a cliff, to a stone, and finally into sand and dust, yet the elements remain intact. This type of friendship is built upon years of understanding and shared experiences. The bond is built upon those elements. You may be different and may take opposite directions, but time will always keep a connecting thread.
It is hard to describe in words. It’s a bond that feels so natural, it’s almost telepathic. It grows stronger through mutual understanding and acceptance. Conflict brings you closer and shared experiences define who you are as individuals. No matter where you are in the world, your friendship stands. It defies space and time.
The swole mate
Defined by mutual interests, this type of friendship is very rewarding. It can be intellectually pleasing, inspirational or even drive you to self-accomplishment and discovery.
The minute Buddha
This person enters your life, drops some wisdom, and helps you move forwards. You may never see them again, or you may develop a deeper bond. In this friendship, there is recognition and gratitude.
The instant flame
The image that best describes this friendship is a leaf burning in a campfire. It starts out strong and dies just as quickly. In this friendship, both parties need to feed the fire for it to last. It is however marked by instant initial connection. Time may change this feeling, but if it does, perhaps reflect on the interactions and what results from the link.
This is the hardest type of friendship to write about. Filled with betrayal and pain, this type of relationship offers some of the greatest opportunities for growth. Under the incomprehension and the suffering, one can find deeper understanding of their own functioning and needs. It creates opportunity for learning, if you allow it. Perhaps you will become a better friend, or perhaps you will be guided to greater self-knowledge and observation. It may leave a scar in the form of a story that contributes to making you the person you are…if you let yourself heal and if you learn self and other forgiveness.
The bond that connects family can be strong. However, when that family is also your friend, consider yourself lucky. This type of friendship is sacred. It is real and raw. You can get honestly and security, knowing that they will be there for you as long as they continue to breathe, and even after that.
It is a scary yet reassuring thought to know that we take your first and last breaths on our own accord, but that in this experience, we are all the same. Often, it is more natural to be kind to others, and it is much harder to direct this energy towards the self. In one of his books, Rick Hanson suggests that one should learn to be on their own team and Kristin Neff teaches self-compassion for greater health. Really, at the end of the day, we can only count on ourselves, and that is okay. It’s actually incredible. Accepting this can only liberate us from attachment and expectations, resulting in more space for caring and mutual growth. Accepting that we are strong, and walk along equally strong individuals, who may integrate our lives to create change, will lead us to becoming better humans to ourselves and with those who compose every minute part of our lives.