Quick! What is a friend? Can you define it? Or is it just something you feel? Is friendship something solid and permanent? Or does it come and go? Is it spontaneous? Or does it require effort and nurturance? Is it free form or structured?

Perhaps due to different interpretations of the meaning of being a friend, there is a surprising gap between those who we think of as friends and those who consider us friends.  Replicating the findings of other studies, when asked to state their relationship to others in a class on a scale of 1 to 5, from “I don’t know this person” to “One of my best friends”, there was only 53% mutuality versus an expectation of 94%! (See footnote)

Let’s define a friend as someone who you’ve taken the time to know and in turn who takes the time to truly know you. Thus given the limits of time and energy, there is a limit to the number of true friendships (i.e. “1st degree” friends as distinguished from acquaintances or people you merely know) that you can maintain. And just like a plant that is not watered or given sunshine, neglected friendships tend to wither away, though perhaps like seeds that can carry the essence of plant life in suspension for great periods of time, friendships can be restored as well under the right conditions.

There is a direct relationship between the quality and tone of your close relationships and your mental, spiritual, and physical health (‘Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships’ by Amy Banks). Those who maintain a robust network of mutually supportive relationships report a meaningfully higher quality of life satisfaction and live significantly longer.

Thus, it behooves us to choose our friends with care, investing our time and energy where it is most appreciated, reciprocated, and blossoms. The best friends help us to be and become our best selves, believe in us, call out to highest potential and encourage our growth. We in turn are their most fervent cheerleaders, loving, supportive confidante, and source of constructive, compassionate feedback.


‘Are You Your Friend’s Friend? Poor Perception of Friendship Ties Limits the Ability to Promote Behavioral Change’ co-authored by Alex Pentland of MIT and as published in the journal PLOS)

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier