On the importance of friendship

You know that great feeling you get when you first meet someone and you talk to them and you feel so connected to them? Yes, that feeling! The start of a great friendship. A friend is someone with whom you can be yourself, your true self. Yet I think friendship takes more than just listening and laughing together. Friendship is a relationship full of sacrifices. It means showing up time and time and time again not because it is easy but because of the bond of affection that connects you with the other person. It takes time to build that sort of friendship but it is the only kind of friendship that lasts. And I think that as a society, we are gradually losing that sacrificing spirit that builds real friendship.

A friend and I discussed this issue a couple of days ago. We were discussing how disappointed we were with some of our friends. It seemed to us like we were the only ones putting in the effort while the other persons were our friends only when it was convenient for them. Friendship involves giving of ourselves especially when it is not convenient for us. It requires trust which can only be formed with time and consistency. It is in the little things we do for those we love like choosing to visit them when they need encouragement even though you had a meeting or other engagement slated for that time. It is in the moments you should be asleep but you stayed up just to listen to them. It is all the little things that add up and create that trust. It does not begin in a day and so it cannot end in a day. And it goes way beyond chatting with someone on social media, it is real.

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The trouble with social media is that it creates false expectations. Just because you follow a particular person and you have access to their feeds does not mean you are friends. In fact, just because you chat with someone every single day does not mean you are friends. Simon Sinek pointed out in one of his videos that even tragedy does not make friends but rather consistency does. A friend is someone you can depend on and to be dependable, you need to make sacrifices. You are not just a friend when everything feels good but also a friend when it does not feel good. Friendship requires giving not just of our time and emotions but of ourselves. It goes way beyond likes and friend requests, it takes patience, perseverance and sacrifice. It takes perseverance in the sense that as humans we all make mistakes so a true friend is willing to endure the injury. In fact, at one point or another, your friends will hurt you and you will hurt them but what you do after that determines how strong your friendship will be.

However, I have come to realise that a lot of people do not see friendship this way. They assume that friendship is just about a little chat and a few laughs over common interests and no effort to check on the other person until you need them again. Friendship is in the mundane; the small talks that make way for the big talks. My younger brother once asked me how I maintained my friendship with my secondary school friend who happens to still be my closest friend and I said it took effort but we were both willing to put in the work. Sometimes she picks up her phone amidst her busy schedule and calls to check up on me, sometimes I do the same. Whenever we are in the same town, we try to meet up with each other and connect again. Our friendship is born out of time and sacrifice because we love each other and we are willing to put in the work. She listens and empathises with me when I feel down and anytime she needs me, I am willing to drop everything just to be there for her. That is what true friendship is.

Real friendship will change everything. It gives even when it is not convenient; it listens even when it does not understand. It persists in love even when it is most difficult and it is not in the grand gestures but rather in the little things. It is putting the other person before you without asking for anything in return. It is in a friendly greeting, a shared smile, an unexpected visit. It is giving priority to someone else even when you have others. It creates time even when there is no time. A true friend like the Bible aptly puts it is a brother/sister born for when there is distress; a true friend loves at all times. Be a true friend, give of yourself.

  • Wale-Olaitan is with the Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
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