What is it About Friends?

We’ve seen the cute posters and greeting cards and we’ve all heard those all-familiar quotes about friends and friendship. Here are a few:

– “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you have forgotten how it goes.” ~ Unknown

– “I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.” ~ Unknown

– “No man is a failure who has friends.” ~ From the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

And finally there’s my favorite, tongue-in-cheek definition, which says; “Friends help friends move. Real friends help you move bodies!” (See more below photo!)

Guy Friends

The old adage — often applied to the opposite sex — you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them can equally be applied to our friends. What is it about friends? Why is it that despite all the friends we claim, when it comes down to it, we have so very few? I mean real friends, the kind President Harry Truman spoke of when he said  “Friends don’t count in fair weather. It is when troubles come that friends count.”

Friendship is a big part of our lives and there are at least a million and one ways to describe it. Just do a Google search and look at all the artwork and cutesy sayings relative to the subject (tens of millions in results!). There’s a fortune being made in the name of friendship. Friendship is a powerful emotion. There are tales of those who once were bitter enemies in war becoming the greatest of friends in peace.  Like most of us I have a lot of acquaintances, we’re all favored with them, especially for those of us who are active on Facebook and other social media.  But what about genuine — through thick and thin — friends? How many do we really have?

The father of our country George Washington, who it is said was a friend of my fourth great-grandfather Colonel John Patton, offered some worthy advice.General George Washington

Associate yourself with men of good quality. If you esteem your own reputation for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company…. Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well-tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.

It must have been a tough “sell” to have been George’s friend but did you catch all that? Better he said to have no friends than to be in ‘bad company’.  Our reputations depend on it. Friendship takes time he said, time to weather the storms to see who will still be around when they have passed to clearer skies.

I’m lucky … in fact I’m blessed to count three or four truly good friends that are part of my life.  There once were more, but when the winds of life buffet us to and fro — those shocks of adversity Washington wrote about — and the many distractions of family and work pull you apart, the numbers often decline. At least mine did.  

A good friend once told me; Your worst enemies are those found within yourself. So with that in mind maybe I brought some of the loss on myself. Unquestionably I am my own worse enemy. Someone who once was a really good friend, who is no longer a friend over a stupid, recent squabble once said; You want to hang around with those who lift you up and not tear you down.  Imagine that.

I’m reminded of a touching scene from one of my favorite movies Waking Ned Devine, and the eulogy given by the character Jackie O’Shea about his dear friend Michael.

Michael and Jackie
Michael O'Sullivan & Jackie O'Shea

“Michael O’ Sullivan was my great friend. But I don’t ever remember telling him that. The words that are spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man that is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral. To sit at the front and hear what was said. Maybe, to say a few things yourself. Michael and I grew old together. But at times, when we laughed we grew younger. If he was here now, if he could hear what I say, I’d congratulate him on being a great man and thank him for being a friend.”

We should all take the time in the days ahead to thank our friends. You know the kind. The ones who will help you move bodies.

English author George Eliot, a pseudonym for Mary Anne Evans, once wrote:

Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor to measure words but to pour them all out, just as it is, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keeping what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

Holding Hands Couple

How rich our lives are for friends like that!  I value my friends and I hope they know it. Yes, indeed, I’m tremendously blessed with a few. And to each of them I say ‘thank you’. Thank you for the quality person you are and for the fact — that despite all my many faults and shortcomings — you still remain a true friend.

10 thoughts on “What is it About Friends?

  1. Very good words here, Rick. My best friend lives two doors from me in the little village where we were both born, sixty plus years ago, two doors apart! (The only difference in that today is she now lives across the street from me and not two doors away on the same side of the road.)

    She’s quiet, I’m loud. She’s a neat freak whereas I tend to be a slob. We’ve weathered many storms together -family losses, changes in our circumstances, children (we both have three and our oldest, both girls, were born exactly a month apart and grew up too, two doors apart.) So many things we’ve shared and still do, over these years and still, without it being said, she’s always been here, quietly going about her work daily, and always being a strong, silent rock in my life.

    I hope I’ve been equally as strong in my relationship to/with her -just in a more raucous manner though. It’s funny too how in so many ways, so many things, she and I think very much alike -and when things happen around us, I know how she will react just as I know she knows and understands that about me. Yep!

    Nothing beats a good friend like that for sure. There are a few others in my life who are bulwarks like that -and I am really lucky, also very grateful, that I’ve had them to share my journey with over the years.

  2. Very nice post, Rick. Another characteristic that I’ve learned to appreciate in friends and wives is that they don’t “underwrite my [bs]” When I’m off course, they take a chance and tell me. We might squabble about what they tell me but in the long run, they’ve saved me much heart ache. Time, too, improves the friendships it doesn’t destroy.

  3. You say, “Wives no doubt have the potential to make for us the best friends.” It took years for me to realize that my husband was my best friend.

    I don’t know why that was, but now after over forty years together I can acknowledge that I’ve never had a better friend than him.

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