When we think of the words friendship and friends, one wouldn’t think we would need to look the terms up because, well, we know what they mean. But do we really know what the true meaning of friendship is?
Being the bookish nerd (lovingly called that by my husband and son) that I am, I looked the word friendship up. According to Meriam-Webster, friendship is the “state of being friends.” Ok, got that.
The word friends was hyperlinked so, of course, I clicked on it. (You know you would too!) At any rate, the word friends actually has many definitions; the two I focused on were “one attached to another by affection or esteem” and the second definition stated “acquaintance;” three very vastly different words: affection, esteem and acquaintance.
These words got me thinking about the people in my life that I counted as friends. Then I began to narrow it down to which people I would put with each word. Who were people I called friends that were merely acquaintances, people that I was familiar with but held no true personal feelings for? Who was a friend simply because I held esteem for them, and, who were the friends I had true affection for? I started thinking about what constitutes true friends and why we have different friends and/or amount of friends at different times of our lives.
As we begin to examine the friends we have had throughout our life, we see a pattern or connection of some sort with people and what was going on at the time. As we are all aware of, each phase in life has different stages or things that are important to us, for example, in our 20s, we are simply full of youth and energy.
Finishing college or starting to work, building careers and dating. This phase in life is energetic, full tilt and BIG! During this time we call almost everyone we know friends and each friend consists of doing certain things with. Life is full and life is exciting with all the people we know personally, professionally and just casually.
During our 20s we, as woman, may be lucky enough to find one or two friends who become our true girlfriends. These will be the ones that we invest our emotions into, but everyone else are just work friends, party friends, friends for different activities.
When we reach our 30’s, our friendships will move based upon the course you have taken in life. We find that our circle of friends is getting smaller and no longer do you need nor want so many people as friends, nor, do we continue all the activities we did in our 20s. Some women may focus on their career and their friends will be more work related friends.
Some may get married and have children with friends being other married couples or other mothers. I know, for me, my 30s was fully focused on being a wife and stay at home mother. My circle of friends were other mothers that had children around the same age as my son. Our energy and time in our 30s begins to become more precious and more focused on a few important aspects and our friends will be a result of this focus.
In our 40s we truly begin to look at life differently and begin to determine what is really important. Our 40s tend to call for no longer having the time or desire for a “big” life with lots of things going on and with lots of people. It seems family, specific few friends and work become the important aspects of our life. Our energies are spent focusing on just a few things and, thus, our life activities get smaller, but our life, itself, doesn’t.
As many of us can attest, our 40s is a time when we can truly invest into our true friendships because we have begun to weed out the excess. We connect even more with the few true girlfriends that we have, spending our time and energy on them, while other people we see occasionally or maybe not at all anymore.
As we get older we find that there is a difference between “people I know,” “people I am friendly with,” and “true friends.” Time is precious as we get older so we do not want to waste our energies on things that truly do not matter. Our friendship circle gets small, but does so on purpose and with reason.
I have been blessed to have two lifelong best friends and a best friend that was made in my 30s and I know these three will be there for me no matter what happens. They are the ones who invest in me and my life on such a deep level. My circle of friends is small, but we are so tight.
Studies have shown that adults with strong friendships have a higher chance of living longer even compared to younger individuals with fewer such connections. According to a study completed by Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina, Chappell Hill, “A supportive network of family and friends may have an impact on longevity.” Betty Friedan also found similar research findings in her book “The Fountain of Age.” She found that as we age we get rid of superficial friendships, but keep those which give us a strong support system.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that friendships are good for our overall well-being. Here are a few benefits of friendships as we age:
We all need the security, support and love of a few special people that we connect with, love and know will support us no matter what. Investing time in true friendships can benefit you with better health and a brighter outlook in life. I pray that a tight circle of a precious few friends surrounds you. Hold tight to that circle and feed it with love and compassion. Make it a priority and watch it grow stronger with each passing year.