When you think about friendship, it's a pretty simple thing at its core. It comes with a list of certain criteria: honesty, trust, respect, fun, laughter, time spent investing in one another. But, have you ever thought about how our criteria really and truly change over time?
When we were little kids on the playground, everyone was our friend. We didn't have a concept of who was weird, or not cool. We accepted any and every person and would welcome any newcomers. We had sleepovers and birthday parties and everyone was invited. Not a single kid was excluded.
But then, we got older. In middle and high school, we were aware of who was "cool" and who was "weird." We became more picky in our choices of friends. We chose those who are similar to us in personality. We were less welcoming and less accepting of those who were outside of what we deem "normal." We claimed "dibs" on our friends and didn't want to share.
Then this beautiful thing happens once we reach adulthood. We stop seeing what is "cool" and what is "normal." We begin to FINALLY mature past pettiness and selfishness. We accept that it is OK to have friends who have friends we don't know, or even like. We understand that friendship is not about what we have to offer one another in terms of popularity and acceptance.
We see that friendships — true friendships — edify us. Real friends challenge us. They call us out on our stupidity and selfishness. They make us want to grow and be better people. They want to talk about real things and be vulnerable. And we want to offer the same things to them. Friendship is no longer seen as a transaction or as something where we ask ourselves, "What can I gain from being this person's friend?"
As an adult who has finally reached this point, it makes me desire intentionality in my friendships. Yes, I have those people who I can hang out with and have a good time, and even carry on a conversation with. And I value those people. But, I also find myself desiring to find people who I can be intentional with in developing a mature, adult, relationship with.
I want people who I can be vulnerable with, share my heart with and still have a good time with. And I am OK with the fact that they have other friends, too. Being an adult means you no longer have "besties" or call everyone you know your best friend. It means you have real, adult friendships that add value and meaning to your life.
And you accept these people for who they are, flaws and all. Having real relationships means you can go to each other and have those hard conversations and confrontations because you don't fear, in doing so, you may lose a friend.
So, how do I define friendship, in light of all I just said? To me, true, deep, meaningful friendship means:
1. Accepting the other person, faults and all 2. Understanding, it's OK to share each other with other people/friends 3. Telling the truth, even when it is hard 4. Challenging each other to be better people 5. Making time for each other when life is busy, even if it's just sending a "thinking of you" text 6. Enjoying hanging out and having a good time 7. Enjoying sitting around doing nothing but talking 8. Being able to trust each other and respect each other 9. Allowing yourself to confront them when you are upset and knowing they will not penalize or punish you for it 10. Being real
I challenge you to find people who you can look at and say, "they fit the bill." Surround yourself with people who you know will make are a better person for knowing them.
But hey, it's also OK to have friends who you just want to go out with and have a good time. Those types of friendships are important too.
Coming to this understanding of what friendship is all about is one of the most freeing things you will ever experience.
An earlier version of this article appeared on the author's blog.