961. That is the number of “friends” I have on Facebook. To be honest, I am not even sure how I collected that many. I wonder if Mark Zuckerberg is going to post some sort of feel-good emoji on my home page once I reach 1,000?

Probably not. But perhaps I will go out and treat myself to some chocolate-infused latte of accomplishment.

It is interesting to me today how the term “friend” gets used more and more loosely. I did a google search of “Friends of” and found out there are plenty of friendships going on around this planet.

Friends of Animals.

Friends of the Earth.

Friends of the Smokies.

Friends of Dalai Lama.

It seems like the word “friend” gets used so often that it has begun to lose its meaning and depth. It feels…cheapened these days.

3 hours of needed friendship

My wife and I recently met up with some good friends at a lovely eatery in De Pere called The Grapevine Cafe. While eating my salmon burger, we had a three-hour conversation about a host of things, one of which was the topic of friendship. We chatted about how the term has been stripped of its meaning and has been replaced by a number of ideas that leave people wanting.

I think many would claim to have a lot of friends, yet still be incredibly lonely. One report stated that almost 75% of America survey respondents experience some form of loneliness. And 30% feel lonely at least once a week.

And while we can have myriads of Facebook or Instagram followers and “know” a lot of people, the very notion of friendship seems to be going in a death spiral in some respects. And much of it has to do with not fully understanding the “ingredients” that must be present before a “something” can be called a “friendship.”

As I was conversing at this cafe, it struck me why so many people may be dissatisfied with what there are calling “friendships.” It is because these relationships are actually more acquaintances, and these acquaintances are lacking the core attributes that move a relationship to a friendship.

So…what is at the heart of an actual friendship?

Unfortunately, we have taken the notions of “likes” and “follows,” and interpreted those as what friends do in their give-and-take connection. We notice that you are there, give out kudos, and periodically chime in on something. It seems our culture has misshaped our idea of friendship and left us with form but not function.

At its core, to be a friend has significance. Friendship may be more than these but it is certainly not less.

  1. I enjoy your company. I like being around you and you like being around me. This seems to be a baseline for many and for some, may be the only qualifier. But at minimum there is a mutual enjoyment of being in each other’s space.
  2. What’s mine is yours. Friends are more just acquaintances. Besides my enjoying your company, there is also a trust that extends from my person to my possessions. 
  3. I will help you maintain balance and moderation in your life. Notice that each point adds depth and ownership. Not only do I like being around you and what is mine is yours, but I am committed to your growth and success in every area of your life. I will do whatever is required even if it requires sacrifice. 

If I apply these to every person I know, I soon begin to understand that I am truly blessed if I have even a handful of people for which all three conditions are true. That I not only see them this way but they also see me this way. In looking at us guys in general, I think we can easily put a checkmark next to number one and possibly even into number two. But mutual investment means being real about the dark parts of my soul that frankly I like to stay hidden. And that often seems too much to ask. So we build our lives around those who love our hobbies or like our football teams. And nothing wrong with that arrangement! But that alone cannot be categorized as friendships just because the first condition exists.

Beyond my sweet wife and kiddos, I am blessed to have a handful of dudes in my life for which I could say “Check, check, and…check.” To enjoy the first without the benefits of the second and third will leave you starving for something more. In fact, to have no one that falls into the “3 for 3” category should start raising red flags for you. It is leaving you quite vulnerable and the consequences could be devastating.

Perhaps you have never considered being a friend like this. But perhaps you need it. Or more importantly, maybe someone else.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  1. Spot on! Nevertheless, very challenging to get all three with the pull of family, career expectations, and the location you choose to call home.

    • It certainly is challenging, Ed, but we guys are sorely lacking without at least a couple of guys who fall into this category. Without this in my life, I tend to veer left or right into the “weeds” and become my own counselor. I often miss my blind spots because they are…blind spots. I have learned that effort and intentionality is needed in this area of spiritual male friendships. The older I get, the more my wife pushes me in this area because she sees how much it benefits our home. Thank you so much for reading this post and commenting!