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Having just posted a pondering on the friendship of a lifetime, I find myself once again viewing the subject of friends, but in a rather different light.

As a recap, you will know that, recently, my Nonna’s dearest friend died. Nonna had spent days caring for her friend – cooking for her, dressing her, even sleeping beside her should she wake in the night. She shared love. She comforted. She was simply there for her friend.

I cried when I heard how Nonna had lovingly held her friend’s hand as she died.

Their friendship touched me deeply, and I viewed it with admiration and awe.

So it was with great sadness that I became aware of a new breed of friendship currently circulating – one on the opposite side of the spectrum, and one that is most definitely required in order to be popular, socially acceptable and one who can boast of many “friends”.

It goes something like this:

Like for a rate: You like me; I rate you out of 10.

Like for a like: You like me; I tell you (and the general public) what I like about you. It will be trivial, shallow, perhaps not even true – but hey, you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

Really, it’s a win-win situation. We both deposit to the general “feel good” bank, thereby qualifying us to deposit and withdraw compliments, flattery and self-made character references. We both get to display the best aspects of ourselves (genuine or fake – it doesn’t matter), affirm our gushingly fulfilling “friendship”, and ensure that everyone else is bombarded with the fact of our mutual worth and value to each other and the world in general.

In this light, a friendship is something we can critically look over, estimate the worth of, and ascertain whether or not it strokes our ego and therefore whether or not we will nourish it.

Friends are those people who are only worthy of the word because they scramble and scrounge to drop into our laps the most adulatory of ratings and saccharine of compliments.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I wasn’t aware that we cultivated friendship as a mirror in which to preen.

So what is true friendship really? What is the difference between these two examples of acquaintanceship?

One version makes friendship something that drives an 82-year-old woman, still weak from recent heart surgery, to care for an ill, pain-ridden friend, and to ride for 2 hours on public transport so that she could hold her dying friend’s hand.

The other makes friendship something that must be earned, maintained and mercilessly weeded until it bears flowers coloured in our own brilliance.

Is this for real? Are we as a generation content to define friendship under these terms? Conditional? Subject to self-promotion? Prone to two-faced fawning?

Do we really believe that others must earn – and keep on earning – their status as our friends?

We focus on peer-approval, peer-pressure, but don’t offer genuine peer praise. We are self-conscious, self-satisfying, self-seeking in our choice of friends.

But in the end, our friendship to others is as wholesome and satisfying as a meringue – sickly sweet, but no substance…

I can’t get over the beauty and wonder and realness of Nonna’s friendship. I am inspired and challenged and so very grateful that it’s not too late to make the change. To have, and to be, such a friend.

Unconditional in love, uncaring of selfish and mocking opinions, genuine.

Selfless, serving, seeking to build up others and not myself.

Standing as a mirror by which others see their own worth as a person.

Rating a true friend as one who has no need to be rated in anything else.

© Emma McGeorge


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