“Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.” Aristotle

I’ve been a loner most of my life. Up until the end of high school I had several friends, all from the neighborhood, but no close friends. After high school we each went our separate ways, never seeing or hearing from each other again.

For the next twenty years I’ve had friends here and there. These were acquaintances that became friends who enjoyed each others company. As before, we parted ways never to talk again.

The next fifteen years were different. We settled down in one place and I formed several close friendships with two people at work. They became more like sons to me rather than just friends.

On the home front new friendships developed that seemed to last the test of time. It helped that we didn’t move away. The friendships, which began as family as a result of our marriage, grew and for once I began to experience a feeling I never had before towards others: a warmth that develops when friends are there.

We had many a barbeque at the house, entertaining almost every week. These were good friends who stood by us. In fact they counted on us. When one needed to renovate part of his house I gladly answered the call for help. As we prospered, so did our friendships. It is something that everyone needs to experience in order to truly appreciate life.

No matter who called, we were always there to help anyone in need. When a friend’s car died, I was there with tools to get it going again even though it meant missing some important meetings. When a baby was born, we were there from the time they went into the hospital until the baby was born and everyone was safe and sound. When someone needed company, and a car, for a four hour car ride we were there.

During that time we never really needed anything from our family and friends. When I was admitted to the hospital for chest pain, I understood that a 90 minute drive was too much for anyone to make and the three days in the hospital went by quickly enough. When I was held in jail overnight for an outstanding traffic violation warrant that I knew nothing about, I understood when no one was able to bring bail money on a Sunday night, since they all had work the next day.

When I got laid off from work after 28 years, they were all there with words of advice. As the unemployment continued, their visits began to lessen. They’d call and give us words of sympathy but that was about it. When our son needed help fixing his house, no one answered the call for help. No one even showed up to his home coming celebration. As our situation got worse, the friends became scarcer and scarcer, not even making an attempt at false sincerity.

So now as I sit here, a month away from giving up this house we made our home of 15 years to the bank, I’ve come to realize they were never really friends. Oh they were good friends when I could do things for them, but when I had nothing to offer and needed their help, they were nowhere to be found. It hurt my wife even more because they are her family.

I know we’ll survive this, that I’ll find another job eventually, but in a way I’m glad this happened. Its made us realize who our friends really are. It’s made us realize that we have each other, and our children, to count on and that’s about it.  

It’s made us realize that misfortune really does show those who are not really friends.

The signs of a true friendship

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” Muhammad Ali.

It is difficult to describe what a friendship is. All of us think we have friends, but most aren’t really true friendships. Some are friends due to environment, such as co-workers, neighbors or acquaintances. Others are bonds of convenience: two people who stick together only as long as one can help the other. While it may be difficult to explain what a true friend is, there are signs to spot the existence of that special bond between two people or when it isn’t a true friendship.

The test of time coupled with change. Two people who’ve been friends for decades may still not be true best friends. If nothing has changed between you, if you’ve been working together in the same place, living in the same neighborhood, then chances are you are friends due to environment. When change is added, when one of you moves away and the daily interaction is no longer there, does that friendship maintain it’s grip on the two of you? Do you miss each other, yearn to be together and speak together constantly? When you are no longer are forced to face each other at work or in the neighborhood, does the friendship remain constant? If it does, then that is a sign that it may be a true friendship.

The test of importance. Can you call that person at 3:00 in the morning because you can’t sleep and need someone to talk to? Does the other person answer, or call you back within a few minutes? Does the other person yell at you, saying to call back at a more convenient hour? Two people who can call each other anytime of the day, any day of the year, regardless of what the person being called is doing, can potentially be best friends.

The test of intimate knowledge. Do you two know each other intimately. Are you so comfortable together that you can tell the other what is in your heart, what aches and joys you have? Can you tell each other what bothers your conscience? Can the other keep everything a secret, even from their lover or spouse?

The test of behavior. This test may carry more weight than the others, since this is where many friendships end. Can the two of you remain friends as you change with age and situation? If one of you becomes the type of person the other dislikes, do you remain friends? If one becomes heartless and mean while the other becomes an angel, do you remain friends without trying to change each other? Do you accept each other as you are, with any flaws picked up over the course of time, without rendering judgment?

The test of endurance. A friendship that can end was never a friendship to begin with. A true friendship will never end. It is both the ending of the friendship and the causes for it ending which highlight why it was never a real friendship. A true friend will never sleep with your spouse or lover. A true friend will never try to take the person you’re in love with. A true friend will never lie to you. A true friend will never stab you in the back or throw you under the bus. Any of the reasons that would cause of friendship to end would never happen between true friends. A friendship that ends for these or other reasons was never a friendship to begin with.

The test of equality. Can you walk side by side regardless of standing in the community or economic condition. One may be rich while the other poor and it wouldn’t matter one bit. You can walk together side by side, sit at the same tables, go to the same parties, without caring what others think or say. To you, the only thing that matters is catching up on what’s going on in the others life, or just being together for a little while, enjoying the others company.

The test of patience. A friend will stay by your side when you make mistakes. They will not judge you or look down on you. They will be there to help you grow and learn. They will help you recover, if that is what you chose to do. They will not abandon you if you marry the wrong person. They will not abandon you when you steal a spouse or lover and break up a happy home. They will not abandon you when you commit a grave injustice. They will not push you when you don’t feel like sharing. They will not render judgement but rather will share your pain with a shoulder to lean on or a warm and tender hand to hold. They will be there for you no matter what happens, as will you for them.

The test of honesty. Are you honest with each other? Can you be blatantly honest, when others lie out of politeness, do you tell the other what they really need to hear. When they ask ‘do these jeans make me look fat?’, do you answer honestly? When that dress looks horrible, do you tell the truth? Can you tell the other the flaws in who they picked, them accept it without further negative comments?