We all need friends. We were made to be relational, and when relationships are removed it can damage our psyche. We all have heard of people damaged forever because of the loss or the withholding of a valuable relationship. Many even build up walls and defenses that prevent relationships from forming to any depth. Others have gone so far to murder and maim people who remind them of the relationships they lost. And yet it remains one of our core needs. We all need to be heard, understood and accepted, as we are and for who we are.
And yet is seems that it is a struggle for many people to gain a valuable relationship that they can lean on. And it seems to come easily for others. Women tend to make friends easier than men, and have deeper levels of relationships than men do statistically, and yet for many women it is a struggle as well. It is one we all face at different times and seasons in our lives.
Many of us have friends but if we looked at the friends we have some would still feel alone and unaccepted, even though they spend time with their friends regularly. Often this is because we haven’t formed relationships that we can turn to in our darkest hours. We have friends we can talk and laugh with, but we often stand-alone in the darkest moments of our lives. Or we share our darkest moments with those we feel we can count on, only to be left feeling betrayed and unaccepted.
This is because there are different levels of relationship. And each level builds upon another and each level has different levels of sharing and openness. There are four basic levels of relationship.
Level A – Acquaintances These are people you see regularly, you know their names and a bit about their lives, you share small talk with them about the weather or what team won the game last night. A good example of this level of friend is the people you work with every day, or the person who knows you by name at the local coffee shop where you buy your coffee each morning. These are people who you know and who know you by first name, but you wouldn’t necessarily invite them over to your home.
Level B – Buddies These are the friends you play with. They’re always up for a night out on the town, going to the beach or starting a recreational softball team. It’s a group of mutual friends and their families who get together often for social events. However, you rarely have serious discussions about happenings in the news, religion and spirituality or major life events. This level of friend is strictly for having fun.
Level C – Consultants This level of friend is one you turn to for advice. You trust their input and value their opinions. They may be more educated and well read than your Level B friends. They stay abreast of current events and are most likely going green if they haven’t already done so. You’re comfortable with these friends and can bounce any idea off them without fear of being laughed at.
Level D – Dearest Your dearest friends are the ones that have been through it all with you. The best friend from childhood that still lives next door to you. You consider this friend a part of your family and you know they will always be there for you. This is the friend that, to put it simply, gets you.
When you try to relate to a friend on a D level who is on an A level with you, you overburden the relationship and as a result it fractures and often breaks under the stress. The same is true with always sharing on an A level with someone who is on a D level. Eventually the relationship starves and breaks down. Our ability to sustain a relationship depends on our understanding the level the relationship is on and treating it accordingly.
And even if we understand the levels of relationships, we still find ourselves wanting deeper relationships than we have. Most people would be able to list the people they have as A level relationships, but the deeper the levels go, the shorter the lists become. And this is important to understand, because the D level relationship requires so much of us to be poured into it that most people cannot handle more than a couple. Each level of relationship requires more of ourselves to be put out there and expressed, and as a result we have fewer D level relationships than A level. A level requires almost no investment of ourselves other than maybe a common interest or project.
But knowing the levels again doesn’t always help us. Most people I talk to have a few A level, maybe a couple B level and no C or D level friends. We seem to be lacking in the one area we need friends in the most. We all need at least one D level friend. Its importance and value to us goes beyond the power of description. And yet few of us have one.
Sometimes this is because we have never thought of what we want in a friend, or if we have we have set our standards to high to achieve. Finding the perfect friend is as likely as finding the perfect man or woman. It just isn’t going to happen. We all have faults and shortcomings and if we were to find the perfect relationship we would ruin it as we are not perfect ourselves. So we must be realistic in our assessments, but also honest. What I want in a friend may not be what you want in a friend. Sitting down and making a list helps us to process our thoughts and focus our minds, allowing ourselves to be honest and realistic. Some of the things on our lists may include;
- Someone who can admit wrongdoing and be willing to make amends
- Someone who is responsible
- Someone of strong character and integrity
- Someone who will respect my ideas and opinions even when I am wrong
- Someone who will give me the benefit of the doubt
- Someone who is loyal even when it hurt
- Someone who treats me with dignity and respect
- Someone who will support me when I am defeated and will cheer for me in my victories
Your list can be even more extensive, but if we continue to form or look for relationships without deciding what we are looking for, we will continue to have the same result. We cannot find our destination if we never bother to consult a map. We can then look at what we have to offer a friend. It may be the friendships we are trying to build will require more of us than we are willing to offer. As we determine what is important to us in a friend and what we have to offer in a friendship we can then start looking for people who are looking for and offering similar qualities as we are. We can then look for friends with some intelligence and focus instead of swinging in the dark hoping to hit something.