A Short Discourse on Friendship

By Sarah Levesque (Rated G)

One of those Ancient Greek philosophers – Aristotle, maybe – said that there were three types of friendship. Whatever he called them, I’m going to call them the Fun Friend, the Useful Friend and the True Friend.

The Fun Friends are the ones you hang out with because you enjoy either being the audience to their antics or you enjoy having them as an audience. Alternatively, you could enjoy the same things and just do them together, like go to the movies or play softball, or you might be co-workers that spend time together at work because you have the same sense of humor. You probably don’t talk about heavy topics, you just enjoy each other’s company when you’re around each other and that’s probably about it. Maybe you care about how their personal lives are going, maybe you don’t. There’s nothing wrong with this sort of friendship, particularly if you’re on the same page.

The Useful Friends are the ones you keep on good terms with for specific reasons. Maybe it’s for job networking, or for keeping tabs on your ex, or for being the designated driver after a night at the bar. You rarely talk to them about heavy subjects, but you probably talk to them about things you have in common, just to keep the relationship intact. You might talk about your lives, but it’s probably for the same reason, and you probably don’t think of them much without thinking of their function. As long as you are also useful to them, there’s nothing wrong with this type of friendship, though after a while of being used, I don’t think it’s unusual to want either more to a friendship or less.

Finally we have the True Friend. True Friends are the ones who help you find Truth. They’re honest with you, they’re there for you whenever you need them, and they really want to look out for you and your best interests. These are the people you discuss the heavy stuff with – health problems, mental problems, politics, religion, philosophy, and whatever else. If you’re in trouble, these are the people you reach out to. And you get a call (or at least a text) if something happens to them. These are the people you encourage, who encourage you. You probably enjoy their antics as well, and they’re probably useful, too, in some respect. But you each put the other first, and that’s what makes these the best friendships.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with any of these types of friendships, as long as you are both on the same page. If, however, you have a friend in one category and s/he has you in another, things may get dicey. Someone who thinks of himself as a Fun Friend might feel put out realizing he’s a Useful Friend, or vice versa. And if you think you’re a True Friend but the other person doesn’t treat you like one, you’re probably not going to be happy. But if you’re on the same page, then all is well. And friendships can change, of course, either moving up toward True Friendship or slackening off to Useful or Fun Friendship. That’s okay too; it’s just a part of life. I doubt most people knowingly categorize their friendships, in part because most friendships are some combination of these categories. But this doesn’t mean that the categories I’ve postulated here are inaccurate.

These categories can also apply to romantic relationships as well. A Fun Relationship will have very little depth and will most likely move toward a different type of relationship or fold. A Useful Relationship is not a good place to be (whether or not either realizes this is what it is) as one or the other will realize they are being used and will probably end things then and there. Once again, the best relationship is the True Relationship, where each puts the other first, where you discuss the heavy stuff and you work through things together, where you can tell each other anything without fear or reservation.

Ultimately, the goal of the True Friendship or True Relationship is to bring each other toward Truth, objective Truth. As a Catholic, to me that means bringing the other person toward God. Granted, there are other, smaller objective truths, such as “we all crave love” and “being selfish will hurt you in the long run” and “take out the trash or it will smell”. There are also small subjective truths, such as “you shouldn’t name your dog Sadie” and “this pizza shouldn’t have pineapple on it”. These last statements ought to be followed by an explanation – “you shouldn’t name your dog Sadie because that’s my dog’s name and it’s going to be confusing”; “this pizza shouldn’t have pineapple on it because I didn’t order it with pineapple”. Large or small, subjective or objective, truth is something we all need. And Truth – that is to say, God – is definitely something we all need. This is why True Friendships and True Relationships – those that bring you to the Truth – are the best kind of all.

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