Why do we need friends?   Is it just that we all need people to understand and support us when things go wrong,  and to encourage us and to give us strokes when we do things well.  Or is that too narcissistic?   Are our friends surrogate parents, soul mates or just acquaintances?   That probably depends on whether we have a few close friends or a whole congregation?   For some celebrities, everybody is their friend;  they have the kind of charismatic personality that everybody can identify with, but surely friendship requires more than identification.  It’s more about belonging,  feeling confident and comfortable in another’s presence, and vice versa. 

You trust your friends; you know that they will not let you down, but neither will they just give you unconditional support.  Your friends will tell  you when you do something foolish or wrong.  They will not let you down; but neither will they give you false praise.   Your friends there to help you get things into perspective.  They can administer tough love when they have to.  

But friendship is not a one way street.   We need people to befriend as much as we need friends.   Our friends matter to us; they assure us that we are part of a community; we belong and have an identity broader than just ourselves.   

Friendship is not just a cognitive exercise; we don’t choose our friends on the basis of compatibilities.  Friendship requires some kind of bonding process to become established.   For women it’s often some domestic tragedy they have lived through together; like getting divorced.   For men, it may be being in the services together or at university.   Risk and danger are often bonding experiences.   Trust  is earned when tested by shared adventure.

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