If there's one thing I think most of us spend a large majority of our lives learning about, it's friendship. Think about it—the kind of friends that we needed as children looks drastically different once we enter into our twenties. Then, once we hit around 30-35, the definition changes, yet again. Why? Because as we evolve and our needs and wants shift, we tend to desire different things from our intimate connections. And you know what, y'all? Not only is that perfectly OK, it's a sign of true maturity and growth.
That's why there are certain popular beliefs about friendship that I personally can't get down with, especially at this stage in my life. I do agree with the French-Cuban-American essayist Anaïs Nin when she once said, "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." However, the more I grow and the bigger my world view and perspective becomes, the more I see friendship in layers as well. As a direct result, there are certain popular views on the topic that I consider to be myths; ones that I feel should be debunked as quickly as possible. Not so that we devalue the friendship, but so we can allow ourselves—and others—to embrace and enjoy true friendships as their purposes continue to reveal themselves throughout various seasons of our lives. So, what are some of the biggest friendship myths that I wholeheartedly believe need to be silenced once and for all?
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #1: There Is a Clear and Firm Definition of Friendship for Everyone
While I do think there are certain standards and boundaries that all friendships should have (see "Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'", "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships" and "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend"), because all of us are unique, in some very significant ways, I don't feel we should all believe that "friend" has to be defined the same way, across the board.
A very simple definition of the word is "a bond of mutual affection", but I'll be honest—what causes me to feel fondly towards one of my friends is usually totally different when it comes to another one. To tell you the truth, a lot of the "friendship drama" that I used to put myself through ceased to exist once I stopped putting the same types of expectations on everyone across the board.
Things like a person's age, personality, like and dislikes, relational status (married folks tend to have a different kind of schedule and set of priorities than single folks do), and even their love language all play a role in what kind of friendship I am able to have with someone.
For instance, one of my friends is in her late 50s and married; I have some deep spiritual conversations with her. Another friend of mine is in her 20s and single; we bond on work-related and pop culture stuff. I don't expect my married friend to connect with me in the way that my single one does. It would be unfair for me to. Still, they both are very precious to me and fall under the category of being a friend; just in different ways and for different reasons. And I am totally cool with that.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #2: Men and Women Can Never Be “Just Friends”
OK, so I'll be the first to say that a lot of men and women who claim to be platonic are anything but (check out "The Word 'Platonic' Is Sacred. Literally."). In order for a friendship to truly fall under that category, both individuals have to have absolutely no sexual interest or desire in one another at all. Platonic speaks of spiritual love—no more, no less. So, even if you've got a male homie that you adore and would never give it up to, if he'd take it the moment you offered him some, technically, your relationship isn't platonic.
Not to say that I think platonic friendships are impossible. I've got male friends who are some of the closest people to me. But when either one of us think about being more than that, it translates as gross more than intriguing. What I mean by that is, they literally feel like family, so anything romantic or sexual is totally out of the question. Ever. And yes, to think that those types of dynamics are impossible between men and women is ridiculous. To believe otherwise is to imply that every man wants to sleep with every woman and vice versa—and that's simply not true. So yes, of course, men and women can be just friends. Male and female interaction serves more of a purpose than hooking up, getting married or procreating. People who think otherwise are missing out on the balance of energy that the opposite sex can bring into their lives. And as someone who reveres her platonic friendships, it's a damn shame that they do.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #3: Everyone Should Have a Best Friend
There is someone I know who claims to have somewhere around six or seven best friends. First of all, according to many experts, folks, on average, have no more than 16 friends total and that includes factoring in utility (work), pleasure (fun) and good ones. I promise you, the more I come to learn what a real friendship is and requires, as I follow that up with striving to be a good friend, I don't know how people have time for three friends, let alone dozens of 'em. Either way, if you're going to take the definition of "best" literally, it is literally impossible, to have multiple best friends. Best means "most" or "highest degree"; best is what causes someone to stand up above the rest.
Yet that's not the main point about this point. Because I'm someone who advocates for married people to be each other's best friend (again, because of the definition of the word), I am also someone who automatically demotes myself, whenever a close friend of mine gets married. I don't want to be seen as someone's "highest quality" over their beloved. And you know what? Living by this personal rule has proven to be really healthy.
Besides, the older that I get, the more I see the value in having good friends; in accepting that when it comes to friendships, there are levels, and again, because different people serve different purposes, having a "best" isn't really even necessary. So long as my friendships are healthy, productive and thriving, "good" is good enough for me.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #4: Friendships Are a Key Source of Happiness
Yeah. I know this one might seem odd, but just hear me out for a sec. Something that I think brings a lot of us unnecessary disappointment and even distress is trying to make other people responsible for our own happiness. While I love my friends, enjoy my friends, and have cultivated some of the best memories with them, I wouldn't say they are the source (origin) of my joy and inner contentment. To me, that is a lot of pressure to put onto any flawed human being (which we all are). Besides, if I gave them that much credit, what happens when we have a disagreement or even, they piss me off? Am I not supposed to be happy with my life anymore? Yeah, I'd rather seek happiness within and then share it with my friends. It's more beneficial, even easier, that way.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #5: The Right Friends Will Back What You Do, No Matter What
Personally, I think one of the most toxic perspectives a person can have when it comes to what they expect out of their friendships is, "If you're really my friend, you will support whatever I do." Really? So if you decide to do something that would put you or someone else in harm's way, I should cheer you on, out of so-called loyalty to the friendship? Please. I say it often because I wholeheartedly believe that a lot of people aren't out here looking for friends. What they want is a fan base—people who will "ooo" and "ahh" at every decision that they make, all the while applauding them and not challenging them when need be. The reason why I've written articles for the site like, "What A Supportive Friend Actually Does (It's Not Quite What You Think)" is to serve as a reminder that a good friend, a true friend, a real friend is going to help you to become a better version of yourself while being a safe and supportive space for you as you do so.
One of my absolute dearest friends has called me out on my ish more times than my own pride would've ever thought necessary. I can directly attribute her to a lot of my evolution too. So please don't be out here thinking that just because Facebook uses the word "friends" on its platform that everyone who follows you or likes everything you say and do is one. Don't confuse someone liking what you project online with being the standard of what you should expect from your friendships in the real world. The right people will have your back, that is true. But sometimes that means telling you when you are dead-ass wrong, asking you difficult questions and revealing to you areas of yourself that you might not see—or address—if they weren't in your life, holding up a symbolic mirror.
FRIENDSHIP MYTH #6: True Friendships Are Forever
I'm a Bible follower. I make absolutely no apologies for that. That said, when you really pay close attention to the instructions for relationships in the Word, the only one that speaks of "forever" is marriage (Matthew 19:6 and I Corinthians 7:10-11 are good examples of this). Every other relationship (including children because eventually, they are to "leave and cleave" to their own spouse and family—Genesis 2:24-25) typically has seasons. This includes friendships. Nothing is wrong with that. Something that I have learned is, oftentimes people come into our lives to get us to the next level within ourselves. If two people are growing at a similar pace, it's easier to stay friends than if they aren't. Personally, I can name about five people who, back in my 20s, you couldn't have paid me to think that we would no longer be as thick as thieves…but we're not. We no longer have the same things in common. Our relational needs are different. To remain "click tight" in each other's lives would've proven to be more of a hindrance than anything else. At the same time, what growth has taught me is, when a friendship is real, when it comes to an end—or shifts—there is no need for drama or a "fall out".
When you really and truly cared about someone and they felt the same way about you, there can still be peace and love. The actual day-to-day of a friendship may no longer be necessary but what can last forever is honoring what was.
A website that I've always appreciated in Snopes. It's a place I go when I want to know if a popular story or myth has any real facts or basis to it. When I find out that something isn't true, it totally alters how I see "it". That's why I penned this piece on friendship myths. While these are only six and, to a certain extent, based on my personal opinion, my hope is that it will also challenge you to see friendships differently. Friendships are dope. Friendships are needed. Friendships are a blessing. Just make sure to take some pressure off of yourself by not expecting friendships to be everything you've heard about them. Figure out the truth for yourself…then bond with others from there.
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