Life is all about the choices we make. However, there are often, varied situations, circumstances and people around us, which greatly influence our choices in life.
Relationships are a part and parcel of human existence and do impact the nature of lifestyle and life events we undergo. Relationships are enjoyable, if they are mutually satisfying, pleasant, and favourable to individuals sharing it. Also, healthy relationships alleviate the negative impact of failures and elevate the feelings of success and accomplishments in life. Friendship is one of such relationship that plays a vital role in people’s lives across age groups—right from childhood to old age.
Friendship as a relationship has some common meanings and connotations, while for some it plays special functions. Generally, people have been describing friends as being the ones with whom they can share their secrets, laugh and cry, rely upon when in need and above all in company of whom they can be themselves without masking their real selves.
A real friend is often thought of just like another beloved relationship partner who accepts us unconditionally and is non-evaluative. Some people often report that they can be friends only with those people with similar interests and hobbies, value and belief systems, while there are some others who share the best of friendship despite several differences in their life choices and life patterns. Some believe in having only a few close friends while for some others, it is the quantity or number that serves the purpose. Friendship is a relationship pattern often not bound by geographical, cultural boundaries. We see friendships existing between countries of the world to bonds shared by people of different countries. Also, in addition to sharing blood relations, many families report that the bond of friendship that underlies their familial relationships is what keeps them close knit, allows them to be accepted unconditionally and also makes them love, being in the environs of their family. Many people also indicate that their best friend is their own self, while for some others it’s their book or TV which is their true friend. For some it ensures emotional support and guidance, while for some others it gives them a feeling of social connectedness and opportunities for spending leisure time. This surely depicts how diverse and dynamic is, and can be, the nature of such a relationship called, friendship.
Friends and freedom
Parenting impacts a child’s values, beliefs, behaviour patterns and lifestyle choices, undoubtedly. In childhood, parents often are support systems for the children. Interestingly, the presence of “imaginary friends” among little children may be suggestive of the need for belonging and love, and of assurance [friendship] present at that tender age too. With advancement into teens, friends begin to assume an unusually elevated sense of importance impacting career and educational choices, fashion, mannerisms and other life choices; however, parents do remain a strong sense of emotional support for most adolescents. I know of a teenager who had a huge group of close-knit friends since school years. After completing their 10th standard, most of them decided to take up careers in engineering. This teenager though not inclined for and having low interest in the vocation, also chose to take up engineering, with the fear that he would lose his friends company. He however, suffered academically and was referred for counselling. Importance of making right career choices based on ones aptitude and other mental ability factors was conveyed to the boy. Also, his fears of losing on friends were dealt with. With effective psychotherapy, he did realise where he needed to change his beliefs and behaviours. He is now pursuing a career in commerce, with his group of friends intact and happy together.
This case indicates that friendship is not only about physical closeness or proximity, but also about the emotional and social connectedness, which can be guaranteed even if friends do not share the same vicinity. Friendships sometimes have been negatively viewed or tagged as what is called “gang culture” in adolescents, where teenagers are often observed indulging in faulty lifestyle habits, sexual issues, deviant and misbehaviour, or addictions to gain acceptability. This phenomenon may be referred to as peer pressure which harms the appropriate-choice-making process of the adolescents, which may be detrimental for their life. Across age groups, badly chosen company may affect indirectly the family and work life of the individual and above all impact his/her own individuality and self-reliance.
Every relationship has its own strengths and shortcomings and friendship is no exception. For friendships to prosper, each one needs to consistently analyse the behaviour of oneself and others. This may be done by firstly acknowledging the truth that our friends influence our choices in life. The more the interdependence within the friendship, more the happiness each one derives from it. Over-dependence of one over the other can make friendship a burden on the other. It may be effortless for friends of similar interests and lifestyles to take pleasure in their friendship; however, more caution needs to be observed when friends of diverse interests and varied lifestyles share friendship.
It may be important to note that the nature and our ideas and expectations from friendship, as a concept, change over age with newer friends assuming more importance than those before.
Acceptance of pleasant and unpleasant events is a part of any relationship and this unconditional acceptance helps us cherish the golden moments. It is thus important for each one of us to understand that the universal phenomenon of friendship is a pleasant relationship to be a part of. Each one of us has varied ideas and expectations about relationships in general and friendships in particular.
Friendship is an ever-evolving and adaptive relationship which calls for each one’s conscious efforts and clearly understood and communicated ideas towards friendship as a relationship pattern. This can further motivate us to promise a favourable climate for friendships to flourish.