Messing with Your Definition of “Friendship”

It’s amazing how we toss the word friend around and use it so freely. Even in the movies the good guy says to the bad guy, “Listen friend, your days are numbered!” Not so sure that was really a friend he was talking to, right?! Why do we use “friend” so often to describe relationships that really aren’t friendships?

Let us rock your world for a bit as we mess with what might be your definition of the word, “friend”.

First off, here’s what the dictionary says: “Friend: a person one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection…” But we have discovered that the term “friend” is often used to describe a variety of relationships like neighbors, classmates, teammates, coworkers, even family members. We could scream: “LIAR!” What?! Are they neighbors or friends? They may be classmates but does that automatically make them your friends? Or, they might play on your team, but is that enough to qualify them as your friend?

Linda: I asked my daughter the other day who she was hanging out with at basketball camp. She mentioned a girl’s name, and I asked her if she was her friend. My daughter responded, “No, just someone I know on the team.” In other words, she is just a fellow basketball camper. My daughter was wise enough to differentiate between a friend and another type of relationship.

Why do we feel so compelled to define most of our relationships as friendships? It’s probably because we are hard pressed to define the relationship. We reach for the word friendship because we don’t know what else to call it. Or, is friendship so desirable that we attach it to all types of relationships that aren’t necessarily friendships?

What are people really saying when they say things like: “My sister is my best friend.”, “My husband is my best friend.”, or “My mother is my best friend.”? What does that mean to people? Can you really be best buddies with your sister? Husband? Mother? If you think so, we challenge you to think again.

Here’s our thought – whatever dynamic in the relationship is bigger than the rest that is what defines it. For example, two sisters can have a close bond and enjoy doing all kinds of stuff together but that doesn’t make them best friends. Yes, their relationship can have elements of friendship within it, but the fact that they are sisters holds a unique significance beyond friendship. True, a spouse could be your closest companion but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are your best friend. A parent may still be a friend to their child, but the parent/child relationship is the primary focus even though it can have an element of friendship.

When the friendship dynamic is bigger than the other dynamics of the relationship, that’s when it can be defined as a “friendship”.

Tell us what you think.


~ by thefriendshipdoctors on November 6, 2010.

2 Responses to “Messing with Your Definition of “Friendship””

  1. This is so true. My eldest daughter calls everyone her friend. She meets someone and two minutes later she’s introducing them to someone else as her friend. However, my youngest says she has no friends. When I ask her about who she hangs out with at school or at church, she corrects me by saying that they’re her classmates, but not someone she could count on like a friend. I on the other hand, have been friends with my best friend since the fifth grade. Although we live 1100 miles apart now and we don’t talk on the phone for months at a time, when we start to talking we pick up right where we left off. There’s alot of women in my life today who inspire me, encourage me, and are great to be around, but there’s no one like that best friend who knows everything about you and still accepts you just the way you are.

  2. I deliberately use the word “friend.” I like that word. I prefer it to more specifically named relationships because I don’t necessarily want to classify all of my relationships. Just a thought…. 🙂

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