Remember those multiple choice questions in school? Here is one for you. The difference is, it does not require a correct answer, just an honest response.
If you lost your closest friend today, who would you share the news with first?
- Your parent;
- Your colleague;
- Your social media networks;
- Your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend;
- Your Pastor/Imam/Priest.
We will not ask why you picked the option you did. Instead, we will ask why you didn’t pick the ones you left out. We will also just speculate that perhaps the option you chose may have a hint as to who is your closest confidant, someone you trust the most in life, and possibly the quality of your friendship. This choice may also explain where you run to when you are at your lowest.
People will do interesting things for friendship. Someone will stay awake all night because of a sick friend or a drinking buddy. An acquaintance once told me he could not believe he could walk for five kilometers through a bandit-strewn street to spend the night with his girlfriend. Indeed, people have sold property, quit jobs or quit school because of friendship. It is hard to detach love from friendship.
As Lenny Leblanc sang:
Love is a language everyone knows; Makes no difference if you’re young or old …Love can make a wise man look like a fool; Love can make a broken heart brand new; This thing called love.
In a 29 March 2022, piece Victor Sander shared four levels of friendship as outlined by psychologists. He says at the 4th and lowest level is Acquaintances. This includes people that generally recognize each other and know very basic information about one another, such as someone you met at a football game, because you may like each other, but you have no obligation nor do you make concrete plans to meet again.
Next you have the Casual level of friends. These enjoy each other’s company and make plans to meet or do certain things together. Their discussions go beyond the surface, including limited personal information. They might tell you where they work or go to school and may even divulge whether they like what they do or not. However, deep personal information is not shared at this level.
The next level is that of Close friends, which is characterized by deep affection and concern for one another. Close friends desire and plan to see each other more often and even offer emotional support for one another. At this level, there is mutual respect and people open up and show their true colours. You ask for advice from each other more easily. They have the freedom to invite one another to special events. In 1989, R. Hays suggested in a piece titled “The Day-to-Day Functioning of Close versus Casual Friendships” appearing in the “Journal of Social and Personal Relationships” that it takes about 200 hours of quality contact and interaction to develop a close friendship.
At the highest level is Intimate friendship or confidant. At this level, people share secrets and there are really no walls separating them. They are vulnerable to each other, with safety and deep trust being in abundance. People at this level don’t judge one another and actions are done without expectations.
Using these categories – Acquaintances, Casual, Close and Intimate – how might you define the friends you have and where would you put them? How much time, money and other resources do you spend on your friends? On which friends do you spend the most or the least and why? Again, what determines how much you will spend on your friends and for what return?
Everyday living is interesting in several ways. Isn’t it strange that a man will spend the least on his wife and children than on his mates at the pub? Or indeed, haven’t you heard of women spending more on a boyfriend than on a parent? Again, how might you explain the rudeness of a husband to a wife and his gentle treatment of a workmate? How might you explain a Church Sunday School teacher being meticulous with the impartation of knowledge to other people’s children and then totally neglecting their own at home? It is all about where we place people on the ladder of relationship.
Before signing out, let’s say this. Not every relationship is important.
Understanding the levels of friendship can help you decide who to spend more time with and who to put in the outer circles. Some relationships will waste your time and money. Others will break your heart or home or lead you to death. Some simply want you as a friend because of what they can get from you.
It may seem obvious, but pick your inner circle wisely.
Until next time.