Few subjects in my life have fascinated me as much as the topic of friendship. I don’t make friends particularly easy and it’s been a frustration to me that I am, even now, as asocial as I find myself being. On my weekends, I’m likely to be found in the library or at home by myself until Amanda arrives home. Rarely am I out with others. It seems impossible to believe, but yes, even a married man can find himself feeling lonely. Especially with the recent departure of two dear friends from Little Rock within 48 hours.
I am one who values greatly his time with others. I value it so greatly that I almost never cut people out. However I recently found myself in such a position. It took a series of profound transgressions including repeated violation of personal space, harassment, and utter rudeness to force me to finally push the person away but it left me in a healthier place. Having to recognize a bad friend forced me to think about what makes for a truly great friend.
The idea of keeping bad friends might seem odd but I wonder if it’s not more common for people on the spectrum. We are after all very insecure about ourselves. Any attention to keep the loneliness at bay warms our hearts. We want to be liked. So it is we fall prey to those who might prove abusive to us. It’s sad but all too true.
We’re also acutely aware of our own issues as friends. We are after all known for self absorption, endless ranting on our myriad interests, and being fairly difficult to be around at times. (There’s also our mythical lack of empathy. It’s mythical though.) I’m more than willing to admit I can be a hard friend to have at times. After all, I can’t turn myself off. I still have people I owe apologies to.
So it is we stumble into these rabbit holes. But there is so much hope for us all the same. For if we find true friends, the pain we experienced in these lessons educates us as to what makes for great friends.
Of the people in my social circle, few are in Little Rock today. That happens as time draws others away. A few are in AR but further away. A few are in neighboring states. One is in the undiscovered country. But all the same, I keep in contact with those I can and cherish their presence.
Of my friends, I have known some for around six years. I’ve known a healthy number since high school. At least one goes back to fifth grade. Then there’s one that goes back to the first days of fourth grade in Arkansas. Surprisingly that friend, Laura, is likely one of the ones I stay in contact with the most. Solid bonds last.
Then there are my online friends. I cherish them greatly. Admittedly I only know a few of them all that well but those I do, I know closely. After all, one was in my wedding party, my podcast partner and dear cohort Albert. I refuse to see them as any different in the internet age. I’m grateful for them.
I also don’t call people my friends lightly. I refuse to. I feel the term is severely devalued and besides, I would hate to term someone a friend who doesn’t see me as one. I have respect. Only when I feel the term is accurate do I use it.
With all of this said, what constitutes a great friendship? I might as well as what does a cloud feel like. You can’t define the indefinable no matter how hard you try. All such things are individual and resist cliche. But I can attempt to describe how I view friendship.
Friendship is best seen in my eyes as an invisible force, the uniting of minds who suddenly lock on similar souls. We’re reaching out, trying to find others who grasp our nature. It’s a very different experience from the miracle of love in which two halves find their whole. Love is connection. Friendship is harmonic frequencies.
Friendship is fundamentally a mutual concept. A friendship where one person spends hours ranting about their life while the other person stays mute isn’t a friendship. It’s parasitism. Friendship is founded on the golden rule of doing to others as you’d have them do to you. I’ve spent hours getting help from people during crises who I later repaid the debt to. Friendship is an alliance, no question.
Friendship stems deeply from shared interests. I don’t get along great with people who aren’t say film buffs or interested in some measure of weird things. I’m rarely that close with hardcore jocks. That’s not to say I’m incompatible with different people, far from it. But there’s some measure of shared interest. Otherwise hanging out will be dull.
There’s also a key component of having similar personalities. I’m not going to get along well with people who are violent of temper or delight in putting down others. I’m not an alpha. I’m also not prone to doing well with prejudiced or sexist people. It’s not how I roll. I’m not a fan of them. They wouldn’t like me.
But there is the vital difference. I’m drawn to people who have different lives from me. I learn so much from their perspectives. Besides, I’d be bored just hearing my own mindset. We learn to appreciate the different.
Ultimately however, I’m just as lost as I was when I started trying to define the term. Friendship is ethereal. We can’t truly describe it. It’s an energy that charges us, indescribable and out there but impossible to detect.
It’s an energy that we must cherish, I feel. Friendship is there to provide us with allies in the foxhole. We must be grateful for these people. We must continually work to deserve it. We must value our friends.