How do you measure friendship? Can there even be a measure or a standard for the state? Of course friendship is a state of mind, because we choose our friends; they choose us. Yet, we are all different and we choose based on different criteria.
Henry David Thoreau wrote about friendship, “The language of friendship is not words, but meanings. It is an intelligence above language.” To understand his concept, one must understand intelligence, which could be defined as ability to recognize things that are the same; things that are similar; things that are different — and to observe these factors as they concern the subject of the intelligence; in this case, friendship.
Recognition requires observation first, but to what end? Observing to observe brings about no conclusion, no thought; one sees what is there without taking action. Observation to evaluate a relationship is a better goal and a way to discover someone to consider a friend. Such evaluation can be as different and far-reaching as the differences among each of us as individuals, because of our differences.
On the other hand, there are common traits that we seem to universally share as participants in humanity: we like honesty and openness; we prefer people who easily like us, and we them; we look for persons with similar interests and interest levels in those areas. And probably the most important trait sought is trustworthiness. Conversely, we abhor people who are dishonest, covert and willing to loosely betray our trust. We have little interest in people as friends with whom we have nothing in common. Friendship, then, relies on common traits, differentials of opinion and experiences shared with others.
We say we want our spouses or significant others to be our best friends, too. But many of the best of friends never marry, and there are too many divorces today. Based on Man’s histories of love and romance and friendship, true friendship among married persons is a rarity; or at least, a short-lived occurrence. The heat of the wedding day too often catches a cold and withers away without kindling kept in place to continue the ardor and fan the flames. The peace of lovers — unscarred friends for at least the day — too often deteriorates from love to like and then past friendship into depths that neither partner wishes to confront or have. Even worse, the relations of such people degenerate into a certain limbo as enemy combatants, especially where offspring are involved. In such horrid circumstances, cherished friendships carry the loads and ease the burdens of the losses and mixed emotions.
Love and hate — flip sides of the same coin — at such times bear no equal to the value of real friendship which succors the jilted lover.
The conclusion is, from this writer’s viewpoint, that true friendship can never be overrated. Such relations can bridge the gap from war to peace and bring renewed hope to lives almost lost forever. Upon that value, no price may be put.