The word friend gets tossed around a lot these days. It’s unfortunate too because I don’t think too many understand what friendship is supposed to really be or what it even looks like. I think it’s sad. For too many, a friend is really nothing more than a person on their contact list.

I think our lives would be so much better if we truly understood what a real friend is supposed to be. Of course, I think that our lives would be so much better if we had something to measure ourselves up against but perhaps a true friend might provide that.

It is my position that the people that most would call a friend, are actually just acquaintances. An acquaintance is someone that knows someone else only slightly. These relationships are fleeting, at best. There is no real history there. On the flip-side, there is no real future either. They are convenient, situational or even strategic. These people would drop you like a bad habit as soon as something isn’t going their way or as soon as the exchange is no longer convenient.

The sad part about these relationships is that there is usually one side of it that doesn’t realize that they are temporary. They don’t know that they are viewed with such low regard and their continued efforts to keep the friendship are surely going to be wasted. So while they may have originally sought a friend, what they are really getting is a lesson.

A basic definition of a friend is someone that one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. You may have a few of these types yourself but I would imagine that your list might shrink a bit if you give it some actual thought. There a few key words in this definition that I think we should be paying attention to.

  • Know – have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.
  • Bond – a uniting or binding force
  • Mutual – held in common by two or more parties
  • Affection – a gentle feeling of fondness or liking

A real friend is someone that you spend your time with. This can be done by phone, email, messenger, or in person. To a real friend, it doesn’t matter which it is because you like each other so much that you both somehow feel bound to each other enough that you WANT to spend what little time you have – even when (for whatever reason) you cannot do it in person.

But it’s not always about the time you spend. A real friend is someone that you can miss but that somehow, time stands still in between the times that you see each other or even talk. Things just pick up where they left off. In the interim, you know that they are there for you and that you are there for them. You both know that you both care even though life may have gotten in the way for a bit. It’s not a huge deal if a month or two goes by without contact because you know what’s in their heart.

What seems to be crazy about this is that I actually have a couple of these friends that I have never met in person – yet, we talk via text, email or phone quite a bit. A real friend isn’t bound by arbitrary rules or expectations. I love that!

A real friend is someone that isn’t easily offended by your stupidity, ignorance, arrogance or stubbornness. They have your back regardless and they would always let you know when you’ve messed up. Most importantly, a real friend would give it to you straight and wouldn’t leave you hanging when you do reach out. Sort of like how a real friend wouldn’t “unfriend” you from social media or refuse to answer your calls and texts without an explanation.

A real friend is your unapologetic confidante. A real friend would defend your honor when you couldn’t do it yourself. A real friend would fight by your side. On a similar note, they would be brave enough to come to you if something was wrong or if something felt off and they would always be willing to hear you out.

A real friend forgives. A real friend knows you’re not perfect and a real friend doesn’t pretend to be perfect. They embrace your flaws and your vulnerabilities. They are willing to let you vent, cry, laugh and scream. And when tensions are high and you happen to fight, it’s quickly forgiven because you both are eager to find resolutions.

A real friend chooses you. A real friend knows that relationships come and go but a real friendship must endure the ages and chooses accordingly. On the other side of that coin, a real friend isn’t threatened by the relationships of their buddy and ensures that the relationship can endure the friendships. Your friends and your family become the friends and family of your real friend.

A real friend remembers that you’re human. They don’t expect super-human acts of anything because they accept you for who you really are. Real friends don’t expect “stuff”… they expect hugs and they are unapologetic for the closeness.

A real friend apologizes when they are wrong. They are eager to do so because a real friendship isn’t about “being right“, it’s about “doing right“.

Aristotle once described a true friend as a “single soul dwelling in two bodies“. I believe this to be an accurate description in many ways. I say this because I know that with my real friends, they often embody the elements of the me I only wish I could be. For some crazy reason the feeling seems to be mutual. This is why I call my real friends my “brother” or my “sister”.

Sure, we all have varying degrees of friends. Some of us are lucky enough to have a best friend or two. I guess the point in writing this is that perhaps we should be careful about who we call friend. I think that by calling those who are not, that which is cherished most, we dilute the meaning and its impact. It’s okay to call an acquaintance an acquaintance because I’m sure we can all agree that you’ll be treated like one if they are.