The Measure of a Friend

“The ultimate touchstone of friendship is to have walked with them and believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.” David Whyte
Friendship is a word like “love.” So many varying definitions of the word. Maybe we should have different words for the concept of friendship as we journey through life.

Friendship in our younger years usually includes us figuring out our identity. We are attracted to the type of person we want to be like. 

We typically see our friends every day in our younger years. Emotions can run high and life is so very complicated when we are in those stages of life. Many variables come into play with our friends–insecurity, jealousy, and drama are often words describing friendship at this stage.

But as we get older, we have a better understanding of who we are. We don’t so much need friends to help us become our true selves. We don’t so much want to be “improved” as we want to be connected.

Recently I was talking with a friend about the support we give each other. The more secure versions of ourselves can hold things for others without judgment or expectation of anything in return. There was a time when we would react and judge choices that we didn’t agree with. We would maybe even exclude people from our circle because of such choices. 

But true friendship coaxes our narratives into the light. 

They could be about marriage, parenting, addictions, depression, shame, doubt. Sometimes there’s deep philosophical questions about God and faith and life and hope. And so we hold those things for each other so the heaviness gets distributed a little.

True friendship is able to do that. Perhaps the measure of a friend is the number of things we are able to hold for one another. What a privilege it is to have a circle of “carriers,” those who recognize that while we can’t fix each other, we can stand next to those we love and carry the cares and burdens that are too heavy to carry alone. 

Whether we have one or many, what a privilege to have someone willing to help us carry the heavy things. Our shoulders–and our hearts–are truly grateful.

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